Topic: attorney general
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October 28, 2013 at 5:32 PM
A Richland florist is asking a Benton County Superior Court judge to dismiss a state lawsuit against her for refusing to provide floral arrangements for a gay wedding, saying Attorney General Bob Ferguson lacks the authority to bring the suit, particularly since the couple at the center of the case never complained to the state.
In April, the attorney general sued Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, under the state’s consumer-protection law after reading news accounts about her refusal to provide wedding flowers for the upcoming wedding of two gay men.
Days later, the ACLU of Washington filed a civil suit against Stutzman on behalf of the men, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. The two cases have been consolidated.
Stutzman is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization that defends individuals in religion-based suits.
In their motion to dismiss the state’s case against the florist, they argue that for 30 years, the attorney general’s office refused to address discrimination complaints directly, deferring instead to the Washington Human Rights Commission, which is charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
They argue the state has “undeniably failed” to pursue any of a range of remedies available through the commission’s administrative process.
In a separate motion, they are also asking the judge to dismiss claims in both cases that Stutzman is personally liable as a corporate officer of her company, pointing out that state law does not allow someone to attack a corporate officer personally, except under exceptional circumstances when that person knowingly engaged in fraud, misrepresentation or theft.
June 12, 2013 at 4:12 PM
More than 60 percent of Washington residents oppose a lawsuit the state attorney general filed in April against a Richland florist after she refused to provide a floral arrangement for the wedding of a long-time gay customer, citing her religious faith, according to a new poll.
The poll by Elway Research was commissioned by the Family Policy Institute of Washington, a religious conservative group which led the fight against same-sex marriage in Washington last fall. It has a margin of error of five percent.
The Elway Poll found that among the 402 people questioned at the end of May, 61 percent opposed – 35 percent of them strongly opposed – the attorney general’s lawsuit. Some 29 percent said they supported it.
The attorney general’s suit against Arlene’s Flowers and its owner Barronelle Stutzman stemmed from a March 1 incident in which Stutzman told a long-time gay customer that she could not provide flowers for his wedding because of her relationship with Jesus Christ.
Stutzman countersued the state last month, saying the attorney general’s attempt to force her to act against her religious conscience violates her state and federal constitutional rights.
“This lawsuit is mean-spirited and the public knows it,” said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
In a statement, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “Quite simply, when it comes to enforcing Washington state laws, I pay no attention to polls.”
Survey respondents opposed the lawsuit at higher rates than they supported it, regardless of their age, education, gender or the part of the state in which they lived. Even in relatively liberal Seattle a higher percentage of respondents opposed it than supported it.
People under 50, who tend to favor same-sex marriage at rates higher than older people, opposed the lawsuit at rates above 50 percent.
Not surprisingly, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to support the attorney general’s action. In fact, Democrats were the only group to support the action at a higher rate than they opposed it, although the gap was hardly significant.
May 16, 2013 at 1:22 PM
The Richland florist who was sued by the state last month for refusing to provide flowers for a gay customer’s wedding, is countersuing state Attorney General Robert Ferguson.
The state’s suit last month stemmed from a March 1 incident in which longtime customer Robert Ingersoll went to Arlene’s Flowers to discuss an order for flowers for his upcoming wedding. Owner Barronelle Stutzman refused him service, citing her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The ACLU of Washington also later sued the florist. A court date has not been set in either of the two cases, which will be heard in Benton County Superior Court.
In her countersuit against the attorney general filed on Thursday, Stutzman said because of her Christian faith, she could not in good conscience facilitate a same-sex wedding by using “her creative skills to personally craft floral arrangements to decorate the wedding.”
“The attorney general’s attempt to use state law to compel her and Arlene’s Flowers to do so violates the state and federal constitutions,” the suit said.
JD Bristol, Stutzman’s attorney, said his client is exercising her right under the federal Civil Rights Act, which allows her to file a claim, not against the state but a state agency, if she believes an action by that agency violates her Constitutional rights.
He said the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based conservative legal group that works on behalf of clients mostly in cases involving religious conscience, has assigned several attorneys to work on the case.
September 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM
The families of two Lakewood police officers who were killed by Maurice Clemmons in November 2009 have each reached settlements with the state Department of Corrections.
The families of Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officer Gregory Richards will each receive a $5 million payout, said Jack Connelly, who heads Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma.
On Nov. 29, 2009, Clemmons fatally shot Renninger and Richards, as well as officers Ronald Owens and Tina Griswold as they sat in a coffee shop in Parkland. In an exchange of gunfire, Clemmons was wounded by Richards.
Clemmons was killed two days later by a Seattle police officer.
Attorney Lincoln Beauregard, who works at Connelly’s firm, said that he and Connelly appeared before Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson this morning, and the judge finalized the settlements.
“There’s been a long dialogue with the Department of Corrections. A settlement of … this size and this nature doesn’t happen without the court giving its OK. There’s been a resolution of these claims,” Beauregard said.
In their claims, the families said that DOC mishandled Clemmons case, including wrongly ignoring an Arkansas arrest warrant issued in October 2009 a few weeks before the shootings. Clemmons had served time in prison in Arkansas before moving to Washington.
“DOC was supposed to tell the Pierce County Jail they were supposed to hold Clemmons. They neglected to do it,” Beauregard said.
Clemmons, after suffering an apparent psychotic break, was arrested and jailed in the summer of 2009 on charges of assaulting police officers and child rape. As required by the Interstate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision, which covers the state-to-state transfer of probation cases, Arkansas sent DOC a pair of warrants to hold Clemmons in jail pending trial. Arkansas withdrew the first warrant, but issued a second in October 2009.
Although Clemmons’ community corrections officer noted the warrant — copying it verbatim into DOC’s internal computer system — he did not alert the Pierce County Jail or prosecutors after Clemmons’ arrest in the summer of 2009.
According to Connelly’s office, a settlement with Griswold’s family has already been reached.
June 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM
The Washington Attorney General’s Office plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a recent decision by the Washington Supreme Court that overturned the conviction of a man who has spent the past 18 years on death row.
Clallam County Prosecutor Deborah Kelly said this morning that after the May 10 ruling by the state Supreme Court prosecutors filed a motion to delay the court from issuing a certificate of finality in Darold Stenson’s case. Last month, the state Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, found that Stenson’s rights were violated because prosecutors “wrongfully suppressed” favorable evidence. At the crux of the reversal was possibly tainted gunshot residue found on the jeans Stenson wore on the night in March 1993 when his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner, were killed at the Stensons’ exotic-bird farm, said his attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud.
The Attorney General’s Office is working on its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition must be filed no later than Aug. 8, Kelly said.
Stenson, 59, was an exotic-bird dealer living near Sequim when he allegedly shot his wife at their home in what prosecutors called an effort to collect $800,000 in insurance. He allegedly shot and killed Hoerner to get out from a debt he owed the man, and to make it look like Hoerner killed Denise Stenson as part of a love-triangle murder-suicide.
Stenson’s three children were asleep nearby when the slayings occurred.
Stenson and Hoerner had been embroiled in a dispute over the cost of ostriches, which Stenson handled on his 5-acre Dakota Farms, prosecutors claimed.
Hoerner’s widow testified that Stenson persuaded the couple to invest their life savings of $48,000 in ostriches, but the birds never materialized.
January 26, 2012 at 9:58 AM
Does it seem odd to ask a reporter to sign a non-disclosure agreement?
Well, that’s what Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office was asking of reporters going into a news conference later this morning at Facebook offices in downtown Seattle.
AG’s spokesman Dan Sytman quickly withdrew the request — which he said was made at the behest of Facebook — but not before at least two news organizations, The Seattle Times and The Associated Press, said they wouldn’t sign.
The agreement, which requires a promise not to disclose any “non-public” Facebook information to anyone, under threat of litigation, was forwarded to reporters as an attachment to an email sent by Sytman on his state email account.
He said it seemed to deal with issues of intellectual property and wouldn’t be of interest to journalists.
Sytman later said that a reporter from The Times would not have to sign.
“We won’t boot you,” he wrote. Later, Sytman wrote to say the reporter was “exempt” from signing.
“It’s a point well taken,” Sytmans said in a telephone interview. “Maybe we should have thought through it a little more. But when we heard complaints, we took immediate action.”
The news conference involves a purported “one-two” legal punch against a company that has been targeting Facebook customers with virus-infected “Like” messages.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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