Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

State Supreme Court: Bothell violated defendant’s civil right to fair trial

by August 2nd, 2011


SUMMARY: The Washington Supreme Court late last week confirmed a man convicted of stalking in Bothell will get a new trial because he didn’t get a fair hearing of his peers. The justices ruled that under the state constitution, the city court erred in permitting King County residents on the jury, when the alleged crime was committed in the Snohomish County part of Bothell. Bothell is one of six Washington cities which are in more than one county. The case will now go back to Bothell Municipal Court for a new trial.

KEY LINK: “City of Bothell v. Barnhart,” Supreme Court of the State of Washington, July 28, 2011.

KEY FACTS:

  • The Washington State Supreme Court last week upheld an earlier State Court of Appeals ruling that the City of Bothell violated James K. Barnhart’s civil right to a fair trial on April 2007 stalking charges because two members of the jury which convicted him lived outside Snohomish County, where the alleged crime occurred.
  • Barnhart in 2010 appealed his stalking conviction to the King County Superior Court, claiming the jury’s composition in the Bothell Municipal Court case violated his civil rights to a fair trial under Article I, Section 22 of the state constitution, which states in part that criminal defendants are entitled “to have a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county in which the offense is charged to have been committed.” King County Superior Court sided with the original court’s judgment but the decision was later reversed by the Washington Court of Appeals.
  • Bothell appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that Barnhart waived any claim of error by failing to exercise his peremptory challenges – a legal right to reject during selection a certain number of potential jurors whom appear to have an unfavorable bias – and that any error that did occur was harmless.
  • However, the State Supreme Court ruled the selection of the jurors indeed violated Barnhart’s rights under article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution, the Declaration of Rights.
  • The high court sent the case back to Bothell Municipal Court, for a new trial, with a jury composed exclusively of Snohomish County residents.
  • Public Data Ferret’s Washington state and courts archive


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    Cascade Natural Gas will pay $425,000 safety fine to state, under proposed settlement

    by July 22nd, 2011

    SUMMARY: Cascade Natural Gas Corp. has agreed to pay a $425,000 fine for breaking a number of state and federal gas safety laws and under the proposed settlement announced last week with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, is subject to another $1.8 million in fines if it fails to deliver on additional corrective actions including implementing safety and quality assurance programs, and updating their pipeline maps. Commission staff in March 2011 detailed 364 alleged violations by Cascade following a two-year sequence of safety inspections of its pipeline facilities, in addition to an investigation of an “over-pressure” incident. The gas company admitted to having failed to comply with a number of state and federal rules regarding inspection, monitoring and maintenance of its pipeline network, but Cascade does not concede it committed all of the alleged violations. The settlement must still be formally finalized by the UTC board but Cascade has already agreed to the terms.

    EEOC Seattle office charges Fred Meyer with overlooking sex harassment

    by July 14th, 2011

    SUMMARY: The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Seattle Field Office has charged Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., with failing to address blatant sexual harassment of female employees by a customer at one of its stores in a Portland suburb who over a two-month period in 2009 grabbed the breasts of three female employees; touched the buttocks and tried to pull onto his lap another worker; and groped the knee and rubbed against the body of a third. According to the EEOC’s July 12 complaint, Fred Meyer “subjected … female employees to a sexually hostile work environment” at the Oak Grove store in Milwaukie, Ore., in 2009. Failure to correct instances of sexual harassment on the basis of gender in the workplace constitutes unlawful employment practices, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The case will be heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and will seek monetary reparations for damages to the employees. Company spokesperson Melinda Merrill said Fred Meyer stores is examining the complaint and will soon file a response with the EEOC.

    In Burien case, Supreme Court eases burden of proof for childcare license revocation

    by July 12th, 2011

    SUMMARY: In a ruling last week involving license revocation of a former Burien, Wash. in-home childcare provider whose son and management were thought to pose a risk to children, the Washington Supreme Court found that the burden of proof is lower than for revocation of other professional licenses. In Kathleen Hardee v. State of Washington Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS), the Court ruled that DSHS must only prove its decision to revoke a childcare license was based on “a preponderance of the evidence.” This standard satisfies constitutional due process, the Court ruled. Hardee, the petitioner in the case, argued that DSHS should bear the burden of proof based on “clear and convincing evidence,” a higher legal standard as set out by the Court’s ruling in a previous decision, Ongom v. Department of Health (2006). In handing down this opinion, however, the Court overruled its previous decision in Ongom.

    BACKGROUND: According to the ruling, Kathleen Hardee operated a home childcare facility for more than 20 years. At the time of the initial license revocation it was located in a home on Marine View Drive in Burien, Wash., according to p. “Initial Order – 2” of this court document. Public records list Hardee as still residing at that address. DSHS became concerned with the presence of Hardee’s teenage son in the house after he was convicted of harassment and fourth degree assault. The concern was not pursued because Hardee’s son moved out of the house, though he returned in 2003 under the conditions of a safety plan. Hardee’s childcare license was revoked in 2006 after Hardee’s son was charged with sexual assault and molestation of a child, who did not attend Hardee’s daycare.

    Hardee petitioned the initial revocation of her license in 2006. Though an administrative law judge originally reinstated her license, a review judge, the superior court, and the Court of Appeals all affirmed the DSHS decision to revoke Hardee’s license. In 2010, Hardee appealed her case to the State of Washington Supreme Court.

    KEY LINK: Kathleen Hardee v. State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services, State of Washington Supreme Court, July 7

    KEY FINDINGS:

  • In Hardee v. DSHS, the State of Washington Supreme Court ruled that DSHS must justify its decision to revoke a home childcare license through only a majority of the evidence presented at a hearing.
  • In terms of legal burden of proof, this “preponderance of the evidence” standard is lower than “clear and convincing evidence.” According to the Court’s decision, Hardee’s defense argued that constitutional due process requires the higher standard.
  • According to the Supreme Court’s opinion, DSHS presented findings against Hardee that proved she knowingly violated the terms of her home childcare license. Continued investigation after the 2006 charges against Hardee’s son revealed Hardee also failed to report and complete mandatory background checks for other people living in her home and had even continued to provide in-home childcare after her license was revoked. One review judge even “concluded that Hardee lacked the personal characteristics necessary to provide child care.”
  • The Supreme Court stated that DSHS evidence proving Hardee violated the 2003 safety agreement, including parent testimonies affirming Hardee’s son’s unsupervised access to children, was substantial enough to satisfy the burden of proof. The Court also affirmed the review judge’s opinion that Hardee was unfit to provide childcare, based upon her actions with her son and other individuals in her home. This evidence was enough to satisfy the “preponderance of evidence” standard, the Court ruled.
  • The DSHS statute governing Hardee’s hearing “provides that, at an administrative hearing, the administrative law judge shall uphold the Department’s decision to revoke a home child care license if a preponderance of the evidence supports the decision” (RCW 43.215.300(2)). However, at her administrative hearing, Hardee challenged this statute and asked that a “clear and convincing evidence” burden of proof be placed upon the Department.
  • Hardee challenged the statute on the basis of two previous rulings, Bang D. Nguyen v. Dep’t of Health Med. Quality Assurance Comm’n and Ongom v. Department of Health. However, the Court distinguished Hardee from Ngyuen; in that case, the revoked license was that of a medical professional, not a home childcare provider.
  • In Ongom, the Court ruled that due process required clear and substantial evidence to justify revoking a nursing assistant’s license. In Hardee, however, the Supreme Court overruled Ongom, calling the previous ruling “both incorrect and harmful.” The Ongom ruling was overturned because its standard would have required DSHS “to satisfy a quasicriminal standard of proof before revoking its endorsement of a child care facility – even when a preponderance of the evidence indicates that the children in the facility were exposed to potential sexual abuse,” according to the Court’s opinion.
  • JLARC: Tort claims costs Washington $399 million from ’04 to ’10

    by July 6th, 2011

    SUMMARY: According to a recent Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee preliminary report, the State of Washington spent $399 million in so-called tort claim payouts related to alleged governmental negligence between 2004 and 2010. Three state agencies — the departments of Transportation, Corrections, and Social and Health Services — accounted for 75 percent of these expenses, and the report found that the majority of these costs stemmed from the State of Washington’s increased tort liability in lawsuits against the state. In addition, the JLARC report found that the risk management process for these agencies is not always consistent with the State of Washington’s Enterprise Risk Management Strategy. As a result, JLARC recommended several practices for all three agencies, including stronger steps to address risk and report on the effects of actions taken by state employees.

    Guilty pleas in Seattle Medicaid prescription drug conspiracy

    by May 17th, 2011

    SUMMARY: A Seattle woman and her fiance last week pled guilty to federal charges in a scheme involving theft of Medicare client information from a Seattle eye clinic where she worked as a billing technician, and to the forging and submitting of fraudulent prescriptions at Oregon pharmacies for straw patients of the narcotic painkillers methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone. The pair then sold the narcotics to distributors in Seattle and banked some of the proceeds. They’re each eligible for up to 22 years upon sentencing in September but prosecutors have recommended shorter sentences in return for their cooperation on plea agreements.

    U.S. Report: Seattle Can Model Next Steps Against Trafficking

    by April 15th, 2011

    SUMMARY: A recently released report by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. posits that Seattle and Western Washington partners in the battle against human trafficking would be well-suited to demonstrate new methods of information-sharing and innovative networked surveillance tools to combat the problem, which includes forced prostitution of domestic minors, and forced labor and domestic servitude of foreign nationals in the U.S., often at the behest of organized crime networks. To combat human trafficking, the report details recommendations for a multi-city high-tech West Coast vehicle surveillance network in known street prostitution corridors; a new, secure Web-based human trafficking data portal for law enforcement agencies; better standardization and sharing of information among myriad agencies involved; and better utilization of data from visa applications to identify potential victims of forced labor. It also proposes how to capture for law enforcement the valuable lessons learned by the U.S. intelligence community on the operations and tactics of far-reaching global networks involved in human trafficking, narcotics, weapons and terrorism; and accents the need for more shelter facilities in Seattle and Western Washington specifically for adult women victims of human trafficking.

    State Sues Eastside Firms For Alleged Mail Order Scam

    by April 1st, 2011

    SUMMARY: Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna today filed suit against a Seattle man and two companies he owns on Mercer Island and in Bellevue, charging that they violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act by marketing stethoscopes and other medical equipment online and collecting payments, but failed to deliver the goods to customers or respond to customer service e-mails and phone calls. The state is seeking penalties, and restitution for consumers.