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Archive for the ‘In the Courts’ Category

For first time, Washington’s supreme court will be majority female, including chief justice

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

On Monday, when the Washington State Supreme Court convenes for the first time this year, history will be made: a majority of the court is made up of women, including the chief justice, for the first time ever.

And it will be Bainbridge resident and longtime appellate lawyer Sheryl Gordon McCloud who tipped the scales. McCloud, who upset a competitive field last fall that included longtime King County Superior Court judge Bruce Hilyer, former state Supreme Court judge Richard Sanders, and former Pierce County prosecutor and county executive John Ladenburg, joins four other justices to put females in the majority on the court, the Washington Courts Web site pointed out Thursday.

The public is invited to the opening of the court’s 2013 session, at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Temple of Justice in Olympia.

Here’s more from the courts’ release:

The ceremony will also mark the inaugurations of Justice Susan J. Owens and Justice Steven González, who were both elected to six-year terms, and Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, who was re-elected by her colleagues to a four-year term as Chief Justice.

The event is open to the public and will be held in the Supreme Court at the Temple of Justice in Olympia.
  • Sheryl Gordon McCloud graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, and graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 1984. She clerked for Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Warren Ferguson before beginning her practice, which included extensive experience in appellate law. In 2008, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers awarded her their highest award, the William O. Douglas Award, for “extraordinary courage” in the practice of law.

  • Steven González is the first justice of Mexican heritage to serve on the bench of the Washington State Supreme Court since the formation of the Court in 1889. González was appointed to the Court in 2012, and served on the King County Superior Court bench from 2002-2012. González earned his J.D. from the University of California at Berkley’s law school and was admitted to the Washington state bar in 1991. He graduated from Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges, with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and studied abroad in undergraduate and advanced studies in Japan and China.  From 1997 to 2002, González was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the state’s Western District. He also worked in the City of Seattle Attorney’s Office from 1996 to 1997 as a trial attorney in the domestic violence unit. Before that, he practiced business and civil law with the firm Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson from 1991 to 1996.

  • Susan J. Owens was first elected in 2000 to the Supreme Court. She joined the court after serving nineteen years as District Court Judge in Western Clallam County, where she was the County’s senior elected official with five terms. She also served as the Quileute Tribe’s Chief Judge and Chief Judge of the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe.

  • Chief Justice Barbara Madsen was elected to serve a second term as the 55th Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court in October. As Chief Justice, she is the court’s chief spokesperson, presides over Supreme Court hearings and conferences, and co-chairs the state’s Board for Judicial Administration. The voters elected Justice Madsen as the third woman to serve on the Washington Supreme Court in 1992, and she was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010.


Kitsap’s legal community casts its votes for judges

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Kitsap County’s legal community recently weighed in on the crowded card of judicial races set for the Aug. 7 primary. You can find the results of the Kitsap County Bar Association’s preference poll below.

A quick caveat: 43 percent of the bar association’s lawyers participated.

In the only contested race for Kitsap County Superior Court, lawyers gave Kitsap County public defender Bill Houser the most first choice votes (52) while deputy prosecutor turned private attorney Jennifer Forbes came in second with 41.

For the Tacoma-based court of appeals seat (one that serves Kitsap and its surrounding counties), the lawyers gave Bremerton attorney Tom Weaver the most first choice votes (44) and Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ legal counsel and Port Orchard resident Pam Loginsky the second most (29) in the six candidate race.

In two of the races for the state’s supreme court, the county’s lawyers were partial to the incumbents: the lawyers gave 77 first choice votes to former Clallam County judge Susan Owens (the next closest was three votes) and 90 votes to former King County judge Steven Gonzalez to Port Orchard Attorney Bruce Danielson’s two.

The closest voting came in the remaining supreme court race. Longtime King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer garnered 36 first place votes, compared with Bainbridge appellate attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud’s 28.

In each race, if the candidate gets 50 percent or above, the race is settled. Those races where that doesn’t happen will see a runoff election between the top two in November. Stay tuned.

 

1st Choice 2nd Choice
SUPERIOR COURT
Bill Houser 52 37
Jennifer Forbes 41 41
Rob MacDermid 2 5
Karen Klein 2 4
COURT OF APPEALS
Tom Weaver 44 19
Pam Loginsky 29 17
Tom Bjorgen 9 21
Mike Lynch 7 4
Brendan Williams 5 8
James Foley 1 4
SUPREME COURT 2
Susan Owens 77 2
Douglas McQuaid 3 13
Scott Stafne 1 5
SUPREME COURT 8
Steve Gonzalez 90 1
Bruce Danielson 2 11
SUPREME COURT 9
Bruce Hilyer 36 16
Sherl Gordon McCloud 28 20
Richard Sanders 14 10
John Ladenburg 10 21

Washington supreme court: Public defense has its limits

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Public defenders can only handle 150 felony cases a year under a new rule issued today by the Washington State Supreme Court. Such defense attorneys of those who cannot afford counsel will only be able to take on 300 misdemeanors per year as well, the court decided on an overall 6-3 vote.

The impetus for establishing the first-ever limits is to ensure criminal defendants receive an attentive lawyer not overburdened by other cases. That said, could the decision actually cause a spike in costs to the county and state governments?

Bill Houser says no, at least as far as Kitsap County is concerned.

Houser said Kitsap County’s Office of Public Defense has abided by a standard similar to the one just mandated by the court since the office’s inception. Attorneys have always been held to 150 felonies or less, he said, and if it’s a murder or “three strikes” case, their caseload must decrease even further.

Houser did say that some attorneys handling simple misdemeanors in the county do eclipse 300 at times.

Bear in mind, private attorneys can keep the caseloads they please, as their paychecks come from the clients they serve.

The standards will take effect in September 2013.


Bremerton sergeant recalls night trooper was killed at Mollet’s sentencing

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Blogger’s note: Those who follow the Kitsap Sun know that Megan G. Mollet, the 19-year-old convicted of rendering criminal assistance to the man who shot and killed Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu, was sentenced to a year in jail Tuesday.

Several speakers made statements on behalf of prosecutors and Mollet at the sentencing hearing. Bremerton Police Sgt. Billy Renfro, one of the first officers on scene after Radulescu was killed, told Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Leila Mills this:

“As everyone knows, this nightmare started around 1:00 am on February 23rd, 2012.  For most of us working that night it began with Deputy Rob Corn stopping by a traffic stop to check on a fellow officer and friend, Trooper Tony Radulescu, who was not (answering status checks). This was followed a few seconds later by Deputy Corn advising “Officer down.” Chilling words to hear over the police radio.

What Deputy Corn saw and experienced at that scene is something that I simply cannot imagine.  The rest of us had a minute or two to mentally prepare ourselves for what we were getting ready to get involved in. In the world of first responders, a minute or two is a lifetime. My friend Rob did not have that luxury. No amount of training and experience can prepare an officer for this type of scene and I know that I was not prepared.

One of the first people I remember seeing after my arrival at the scene was (Kitsap County) Deputy Matt Hill walking back from where Tony lay alongside the road dead.  I’ve known Matt for over 20 years and the distraught look on Matt’s face as he told me, “They killed Tony. They shot him in the head” is something that I will never forget.

I clearly recall the look of shock on everyone’s face and the surreal feeling that this can’t be happening.  The gut-wrenching feeling as I rounded the front of Tony’s patrol car to see him lying on the shoulder of that highway is something I never want to feel again.

I remember Tony’s supervisor, Sergeant Tegard, choking back tears as he made phone calls from the scene, notifying others of the tragedy; I remember the look of disbelief on Trooper Germaine Walker’s face as we loaded Tony onto the stretcher; and I will never forget the image of Trooper Mitch Bauer standing in the back of a South Kitsap Medic Unit with his fellow trooper on a stretcher next to him, dead.

In trying to explain why she lied to police, Megan Mollet has said that Josh Blake was a different person after the shooting, “Not the Josh she knew. There was a change in his eyes.” I only know Josh Blake from what I’ve read about and heard from others, but it was no secret the kind of person he was.  He was a violent criminal through and through and a scourge to our society. Megan Mollet knew this of Josh Blake, considered him a friend, and a person she would drug and drink with on a regular basis.

I’ve heard and read that Megan Mollet and her supporters claim that she had no choice but to lie to officers after the murder of Trooper Tony Radulescu. I could not disagree more, and this is simply a copout on Megan Mollet’s part.

After the murder, Megan Mollet made numerous choices to lie to officers after Josh Blake was nowhere around, and she was safely seated in a patrol car. She actively hindered and delayed our investigation and our search for a cop killer, putting numerous officers’ lives at risk, and she did this because Josh Blake was her friend, not because she was afraid.

Since her arrest Megan Mollet continues with her poor choices and showing her loyalty to her friend Josh Blake, as is evident by the words etched into her jail cell wall, “White Power. RIP Josh Blake.” How infuriating.

Let there be no confusion for Megan Mollet, or her supporters.  There are numerous people related to the events that unfolded on February 23rd that did not have a choice, but Megan Mollet is not one of them; Trooper Tony Radulescu did not have a choice that night; Tony’s family and loved ones did not have a choice; and none of the troopers, deputies, or officers that responded to that scene, and then had to immediately engage in a manhunt, with no time to mourn the loss of one of our own, had a choice…Megan Mollet had a choice.

I’m sure Megan Mollet will ask the court for mercy, provide excuses for her actions, and maybe even express some remorse. I ask that the court keep in mind that Megan Mollet is an established self-serving liar.  It was from absolutely no assistance from Megan Mollet that the cowardly murderer Josh Blake was located. We did that on our own.

In closing, residents of Kitsap County, Kitsap County Law Enforcement, and the Washington State Patrol lost a respected member of our community and profession, and it is terribly painful. I respectfully ask that the court sentence Megan Mollet to the maximum allowable sentence.”

 


Prosecutors’ ‘special inquiry’ power used often in Kitsap County

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Did you know that our state’s prosecutors have the power to access private information — bank accounts and cellphone logs for instance — without any record of doing so ever being made public?

I sure didn’t. But as it turns out, the “Statewide Special Inquiry Judge Act,” has been around for more than 30 years. Last week, it was chronicled in a story by Associated Press Reporter Gene Johnson, where I learned about it.

Essentially, “special inquiry” proceedings give prosecutors a way to bring potential evidence before a judge for review, as investigators probe whether there is probable cause to charge someone with a crime.

It’s kind of like the process for obtaining a search warrant, but, as Johnson points out in the story, it doesn’t require sworn statements “or a finding of probable cause that a crime has been committed.” Furthermore, search warrants generally become a matter of public record — but special inquiry proceedings rarely, if ever, do (Johnson’s story points out one instance where they have).

After reading his story, I called Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge to find out if the special inquiry process was used here. I had noticed, in my years as courts reporter, the phrase “special inquiry” written on charging documents but never knew what it meant.

Hauge told me that the “special inquiry” use is not uncommon in Kitsap. He said that at any given time, there are 10 or so pending, mainly to seek financial records.

He said that while the process is a secret, it is overseen by a judge, and, if prosecutors find no evidence of wrongdoing, nothing goes public — and thus there’s no risk to the reputation of the person investigated.

“If no criminal charges are ever filed, the information remains under seal,” Hauge said.

Judges can also hear from frightened witnesses who are guaranteed immunity and whose testimony also remains secret. In rare cases in Kitsap, a witness is called to testify in one, Hauge said.

But there is some controversy. From Johnson’s story:

Prosecutors who use them say the proceedings are authorized by state law, make for more efficient investigations and have plenty of judicial oversight, but (a lawyer contesting the process) and other defense attorneys say they raise questions about privacy, accountability and the open administration of justice.

Hauge said the proceedings are based in the grand jury system, but — as authorized by lawmakers in 1971 — without the grand jury. There is judicial oversight and “It maintains all of the protections,” given to its witnesses and potential targets.

And where did the idea for these proceedings come from? Organized crime, as it turns out. From Johnson’s story:

The special inquiry law was a response to a corruption scandal involving the Seattle police, including the former chief, and the former King County prosecutor. When Chris Bayley was elected King County prosecutor, he organized a grand jury to investigate.

Dave Boerner, a semi-retired Seattle University criminal law professor, was a deputy King County prosecutor then. He recalled that the grand jury was cumbersome, slow and expensive, and he joined his boss in urging lawmakers to adopt a new type of proceeding — the special inquiries.


Live blog: Ostling vs. Bainbridge, May 29

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

CASE BACKGROUND: In the case of Ostling vs. Bainbridge Island, jurors in U.S. District court are wrestling with two conflicting viewpoints: either two Bainbridge Island police officers were just doing “the best they could under the circumstances,” in responding to Douglas Ostling’s home in October 2010, or they caused a “preventable death that would’ve been avoided if they’d followed their own policy manual.”

The case, having been ongoing three weeks now, is set to wrap up this week. Kitsap Sun Reporter Tristan Baurick will be in court Tuesday and Wednesday covering the testimony, which you can follow live below.


Mollet found guilty of rendering criminal assistance

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Jurors found Megan G. Mollet, charged by county prosecutors with rendering criminal assistance to the man that killed Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu, guilty Friday morning.

The verdict was read at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Here’s what I wrote about the attorney’s closing arguments Thursday:

In his closing arguments Thursday, Drury said that Mollet’s lies slowed investigators’ efforts to learn who Blake was and where he’d gone after dropping her off at a house on Sidney Road near Port Orchard.

“She concealed him with the intent to delay the apprehension or even to keep him from being prosecuted,” Drury says.

When first contacted by investigators, Mollet said she didn’t know Blake and claimed she had spent the night helping someone in Belfair move. But after authorities arrested her the next day, she admitted that she’d been with Blake when he shot and killed the trooper.

Morrison argued that Mollet was scared, and that failure to report a crime is not against the law. He pointed out that she never mislead investigators or attempted to provide misinformation.

Morrison also argued that police never told Mollet that they would protect her from Blake if telling the truth. Drury pointed out that she was surrounded by police when she lied.

Drury reminded jurors that Mollet testified that “I kept yelling at him and telling him he was stupid” after Blake shot Radulescu. The prosecutor said that didn’t sound like someone who was fearing for her life.

Morrison contended the pair was not Bonnie and Clyde and that prosecutors “wanted to make an example out of her.”

“Don’t hold her responsible for Joshua Blake’s murder,” Morrison says.


Live blog: Ostling vs. Bainbridge, Day 9

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

CASE BACKGROUND: The plaintiff Ostling family is expected to wrap up its case this week. They’re suing the city of Bainbridge Island for alleged civil rights violations against Douglas Ostling, the night the 43-year-old was shot and killed by police.

Reporter Tristan Baurick is at court live blogging the proceedings today.


Live Blog: State v. Mollet, Day 2

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

CASE BACKGROUND: Testimony begins today in the case of State of Washington vs. Megan Mollet. Mollet is charged by county prosecutors with rendering criminal assistance to the man who killed Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu on Feb. 23. Mollet is also charged with making false statements to police.

Mollet’s attorney is arguing that she was under duress at the time of and after the shooting.

We’re in a bit of a delay this morning but court is expected to begin shortly.


Live blog: State vs. Mollet, opening statements

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

CASE BACKGROUND: Megan G. Mollet, the 18-year-old charged by county prosecutors with rendering criminal assistance to the man authorities say murdered Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu, is on trial this week.

Sixty people were considered to serve on the jury considering the charges against Mollet, including making a false statement to a public servant, a gross misdemeanor, and the original rendering charge, a felony.

This afternoon will be opening statements from Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Tim Drury and Mollet’s attorney, Jonathan Morrison.


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