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A Victory for the Right to a Fair Trial

In a case (State v. Monday) that drew front-page coverage in today’s Seattle Times, the Washington Supreme Court has issued a strong ruling that racist comments by a prosecutor undermine the fundamental right to a fair trial. Read More »
 

ACLU-WA Was a Voice for Children in Olympia

ACLU-WA Legislative Director Shankar Narayan was one of a group of lobbyists recognized with a Voices for Children award at  the annual awards luncheon the Children’s Alliance on Tuesday.  The lobbyist group, known as the Racial Equity Team, was presented the award in recognition of their work to advance racial equality issues in the 2012 legislative session.  Read More »
 

Drug-Sniffing Dogs in Schools Make Every Student a Suspect

Last month, a high school in southeastern Washington conducted a suspicionless drug search. Students were asked to leave their classroom so that a police officer with a “drug-detection dog” could check their backpacks for signs of drug possession. After the search, two students were singled out for a more invasive search and questioning. One had marijuana paraphernalia in his backpack; in the other, no signs of drugs or drug paraphernalia could be found. Good news for the second student—after the humiliating and anxiety-producing search was complete, he was permitted to go back to class. Read More »
 

Redistricting: The Lines on Those Maps Make a Difference

Do you remember all of the publicity about the 2010 census? The numbers have now been tallied, and they will have major impacts in Washington state and throughout the nation.

One of the most important ways in which data from the census are used is in redistricting our nation’s political jurisdictions. In the last decade, Washington’s population increased by more than 14%. As a result, our federal congressional delegation will be increased from 9 to 10 members, giving Washington state an additional vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Read More »

 

Tux? Corsage? Constitution? Know Prom Night Rights

Do you know a student who is attending prom? For many young adults, prom is a highlight of the school year. For others, the experience can be marred by a violation of students' constitutional rights. Do you know your prom night rights? Read More »
 
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The 40-Year War on Drugs: It's Not Fair, and It's Not Working.

June 2011 has the unfortunate distinction of marking the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" — a war which has cost $1 trillion but produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs.The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color. The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites. Read More »
 
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Three Seattle police officers suspended over use of 'gutter language'

In a disciplinary action, Seattle Police Chief Diaz has sent a strong message to officers: they must conduct themselves professionally and must treat all segments of the community respectfully.

As Lt. Mark Kuehn of the SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability put it in a memorandum, "Police officers are held to a higher standard than the general public and gang members. It seems professional officers should be able to accomplish their mission and make their point in most situations without resorting to gutter language..." Read More »

 

Celebrate a victory for free speech

Last week we told you that some Washington state farmers markets have policies or practices that limit free speech activities. We asked you to help us to protect the free speech rights of all market-goers. Over 800 of you responded, and the Washington State Farmers Market Association has heard your concerns!  

Over the next weeks, we will work with the Association to help them develop educational materials, model policies, and guidelines for market organizers across the state. Sign onto our letter saying thanks to the WSFMA for recognizing the importance of free speech in our public spaces!  Read More »

 

Doing Life for Marijuana: A Case Study in Waste

Earlier this month, a Louisiana judge sentenced a 35-year-old man to prison for the rest of his life—for marijuana. According to the Times-Picayune, Cornell Hood II was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute after law enforcement found approximately two pounds of marijuana and $1,600 in cash in Hood’s home. The jury convicted him of a lesser charge, but the prosecutor used Hood’s prior convictions to seek a life sentence anyway, arguing Hood was a “career criminal.”

What were Hood’s prior convictions? In 2005 and 2009, he pled guilty to selling marijuana. Obviously, Hood has been making his living selling marijuana for the past half-dozen years, and selling marijuana for recreational use is still a crime in this country. But Hood’s offenses involved no violence, no damage or theft of property. He was sentenced to probation in each of his prior cases.

Setting aside the question of whether jailing a person for life for marijuana can be ethically justified, let’s look at whether it’s smart. Read More »

 

Free Speech: Coming to a Farmers Market Near You

Earlier this week, we wrote about the fact that some Washington state farmers markets have policies or practices that limit free speech activities, such as petition signature gathering and handing out political material.   We asked you to sign a petition to the statewide organization asking them to protect the free speech rights of all market-goers.  And over 800 ACLU-WA supporters responded!

Thanks to their efforts, the Washington State Farmers Market Association has heard the concerns and is eager to make changes.  We will work with the Association to help them develop educational materials, model policies, and guidelines for market organizers across the state. 

Thanks to all of you who responded, and thanks to the Washington State Farmers Market Association for recognizing the importance of free speech in our public spaces! Read More »