Category Archives: Law in Focus

Law in Focus: Bikini Baristas and Free Speech

(Blogger’s note: Stan Glisson, a local Bremerton defense attorney, is back to help us sort through the legal issues of the so-called “bikini baristas.” Here’s his take. You can read his earlier posts here.

The first amendment to the US constitution prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech”, among other things. It is said that many delegates to the Constitutional Convention refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, they considered these rights so important. Freedom of speech has been interpreted over the last two centuries to include a variety of forms of expression, primarily to ensure to Americans that our government can never censor critical examination. Questioning the government is undoubtedly protected. Also literature, for example, of essentially any type is safe; film is protected, as is protesting, organization of labor, and now … pasties?

Around the state, scantily dressed baristas have been in the news. Young women working the stands have been alleged to wear shorts, bikinis, bras, sometimes just pasties. Arrested in Snohomish county, charged in Pierce county with public exposure, the coffee stands are drawing more and more attention, while increasing in number. They are clearly popular, but troublesome to some. So should the county take action? Should they be outlawed; can the employees charged and arrested?

Luckily, our local authorities are devoting their time to more pressing matters. Also, the law allowing prosecution of the semi – clothed baristas doesn’t appear to exist here. State law only prohibits exposure of the body if likely to cause “affront or alarm”. Hard to imagine, in a scenario where the women really are only seen by those who seek them out. In Pierce, the county code pretty clearly outlaws pasties in any public place. The Bremerton code, incidentally, contains a nearly identical provision. The Kitsap County code, however, doesn’t appear to contain any such prohibition. So in the unincorporated county, it certainly seems that none of these stands are breaking the law by dressing employees in swimsuits, undergarments, or pasties.

The local government could draft a law to prohibit such shops if it so desired. But should it? Would the Constitution allow it? The First Amendment has certainly been invoked to protect more offensive forms of expression than minimal clothing. Crude t-shirts, bumper stickers, random vulgarities that we hope our kids don’t notice – these are offenses we routinely endure, but are protected. We have become desensitized to the ubiquitous comic strip character urinating on disfavored car company logos (And if you have stick figures representing your family members in your back window, well … I guess you have rights too). Pornography, flag desecration, even racism and hate speech; these have all been specifically protected by the highest courts in the country. We each have the right to express ourselves in almost any creative way, regardless of offensiveness to others. In fact, it’s generally only offensive expression that requires protection.

The French author Voltaire is quoted as saying, “I may disagree with what you say; but I will defend with my life your right to say it.” We express ourselves in words, action, association with others, and yes – our clothing. By what we wear, we create an image and express an attitude. The government can’t outlaw particular styles of dress any more than it can regulate the music you listen to or the color of the tie you wear to work. If a shop owner wants to create a certain climate or entice a certain clientele by having employees dressed in skimpy clothing, it seems to me that we as a society have to allow it. If we lived in a warmer climate, such attire might not be so rare. But if we deny the right to baristas to wear bikinis to work, what right are you willing to give up next?

Stan Glisson is an attorney in Bremerton with the firm Glisson and Witt. Their firm mainly handles DUI and misdemeanor defense, as well as felony defense. Glisson earned his law degree at the University of Washington, has worked as a Kitsap County deputy prosecutor, and as a Kitsap and Snohomish defense attorney before entering private practice.

Local Legislator’s Bill Would Stiffen Penalty for Scanner-Monitoring Criminals

Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, is pushing a bill aimed at punishing criminals who used police scanners to aid in their nefarious acts.

House Bill 2595 would create an aggravating factor — and thus a judge could go beyond the standard sentencing range — for folks who listened to police radio scanners “as a means to facilitate a crime.”

“This bill sends a clear message to criminals. It says that using the police scanner as a way to help you commit your crime will not be tolerated,” Rolfes said. “These communications are intended for public safety and notification, not to serve as a tool to be exploited for criminal activity.”

Rolfes’ bill passed the house unanimously Friday and now moves to the Senate for a vote.

Kitsap Lawyers’ Debate Wouldn’t be Complete without Some Caselaw

A debate over the results of the Kitsap County Bar Association’s Judicial Preference Poll ignited this month, after Silverdale attorney Ron Templeton called the poll a “popularity contest.” (Read the full story here.)

Such a debate just wouldn’t be “lawyerly” if it didn’t involve some case law.

Bremerton attorney Stan Glisson, in responding to Templeton’s accusation that Bremerton Municipal Court was a venue for “dog bites and traffic infractions,” invoked the legendary case Marbury v. Madison. The case opinion by John Marshall in 1803 was the first time the US Supreme Court declared something unconstitutional, establishing the idea that the courts could keep in check the executive and legislative branches of government.

The heart of the case was a last minute appointment by President John Adams of a justice of the peace, among many “midnight” appointments Adams made in an effort to fill the judiciary with federalists on the eve of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.

“In 1803, few people probably cared whether William Marbury won a commission as a local justice of the peace,” Glisson wrote. “But Marbury v. Madison established our current concept of judicial review, without which the separation of powers and our concept of government is effectively meaningless.”

In Templeton’s response, he used the same case to make his point — that challenger Ed Wolfe, who’s facing incumbent Judge James Docter this fall for the municipal court seat, isn’t unqualified to serve as judge. James Madison and William Marbury, the men involved in the case, had little in the way of judicial experience, Templeton wrote.

“Both Marbury and Marshall were well-respected for their intellect,” he wrote. “However, under the ‘experience’ test enumerated by some of our colleagues today, neither Marbury or Marshall would be judged ‘qualified’ to fill the judicial positions to which they were appointed.”

Info on New Inmate Public Records Law Requested … by Inmate

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The recently-signed inmate public records abuse law will soon face its first test, following an inmates’ public records request for any information on the new inmate public records abuse law.

Sound redundant? To Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, the author of the new law, it’s ironic.

“I think it’s fitting that the very person who prompted the law in the first place will be the legal test case to try it out,” Carrell (pictured) said in a press release Monday. “It’s ironic that the individual is an inmate seeking excessive public records on bills that prevent inmates from seeking excessive public records.”

The new law’s aim is to cut down on public records requests by inmates that seem “abusive.” The attorney general’s office reports that in 2007, the Department of Corrections (DOC) staff spent 12,494 hours responding to offender records requests, costing taxpayers more than $250,000 and six full-time employees.

Carrell’s bill, signed into law March 20, had only two lawmakers vote against it (one of them was Poulsbo Democrat Sherry Appleton, and you can read about her no vote here).

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From Kitsap to the Governor’s Desk: Crime Victims Bill Awaits Signature

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The State Legislature has voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would give crime victims a chance to voice their opinions on their offender’s placement in the prison system’s work release program.

And the effort all started here in Kitsap.

House Bill 1076, introduced twice in as many years by Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island (pictured), mandates the Department of Corrections to “consider” a victim’s input, and based on such testimony, DOC could change its decision about an offender’s work release placement.

The bill’s passage into law now only awaits Gov. Christine Gregoire’s signature.

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Appleton Explains Vote Against Public Records Restrictions for Inmates

appletonState Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo (left), was one of only two lawmakers to vote against a bill that would restrict prisoners’ public record requests. This fact was pointed out by commenter “Fedup” on this blog yesterday, and made me curious to find out why she stood up against nearly all of her fellow legislators.

First, a quick recap: Senate Bill 5130 aims to give judges the authority to block prisoners’ public records requests if they find they’re for the purposes of harassment. One other lawmaker in both houses voted against it aside from Appleton.

Here was her rationale.

“I voted against the bill because it means that (The Department of Corrections) could or (The Department of Social and Health Services) could turn down requests for documents of prisoners who have legitimate reasons for requesting records,” she wrote on email. “Many prisoners represent themselves, pro se, and this means it will be harder to obtain records.”

“This is a question of justice,” she added.

She believes that in cases of harassing public records requests, those who are victimized in them — be it a law enforcement officer, lawyer, or otherwise — are already protected.

” … The statutes already protect confidential information such as address, phone number and family members,” she wrote. “The problem is that the agencies are not enforcing the tools the have.  Hence my no vote.”

I interviewed State Attorney General Rob McKenna, and he disagreed with such an assessment. He said there’s a group of about 10 inmates who are abusing the power of the public records request. I’ll have more on that in an upcoming story.

First, here’s why McKenna’s office, which wrote the bill, advocated for it, taken from their web site:

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Will Obama Soften Federal Pot Policy?

In a land where — despite its illegality — 1,800 pounds of marijauna is found in lawn statues and even sports columnists have grow operations, drug policy spectators want to know: how will Barrack Obama continue to fight our drug war?

It’s too soon to tell. But there are early signs that our 44th president may soften the federal stance on pot — at least its use for medical purposes.

A story in the Washington Times last week covered some raids of medical marijuana shops in California. But before advocates were quick to criticize, the story pointed out that Obama opposes such raids — he just hasn’t gotten around to installing his choices to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration, roles which are still filled by George W. Bush’s appointees. Those appointees continue to carry out the policies of our 43rd commander-in-chief.

The low-level civil war being fought between the federal government and the 13 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes is something we devoted a special report to. The next chapter in this story may be that Obama will side with the states instead of using federal dollars to raid such clinics. Here’s a quote from the story in the Washington Times:

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