The Washington State Supreme Court will conduct a rare local public hearing of three court cases on the campus of University of Puget Sound on Thursday, Sept. 19.
The cases are being heard in Tacoma in order for the public to have the opportunity observe the justice system in action and to pose questions to the nine judges, led by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. This “traveling court” is part of the Supreme Court’s policy of providing open access to local communities.
Three appeals to criminal convictions will be heard in two sessions in Schneebeck Concert Hall, on Thursday, Sept. 19. From 9-11:45 a.m. the Court will hear oral arguments in two cases: one involving privacy rights and the other dealing with mental competency. That afternoon, 1:30-2:30 p.m., the third case, on a privacy issue, will be argued in a case involving armed robbery.
The public is welcome to attend and ask questions of the justices at the end of each session. Attendance is free and no tickets are required. A map of campus is below.
The day prior, Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m., a panel discussion including several of the justices will be held in Schneebeck Concert Hall. The topic will be “Legal Issues in Diversity.” The justices and the moderator, Professor of Religion Suzanne Holland, may explore some recent controversial legal issues, including rulings relating to same-sex marriage and affirmative action in college admissions. Attendance is free, but tickets are required for this panel discussion session. See below for ticket information.
The court visit and the panel are sponsored by the School of Business and Leadership and the Office of the President at University of Puget Sound.
The Supreme Court visit on this 125th anniversary year of the founding of University of Puget Sound provides an opportunity to reflect on the advancement of legal justice since 1888. A century and a quarter ago, when the university was founded, Washington was not yet a state.
In that same year the Supreme Court of the Territory of Washington set back the fledgling push for women’s rights with a ruling in Bloomer v. Todd. Nevada Bloomer had sued after she was not allowed to vote for a new mayor, despite Washington territorial law giving every citizen over 21 the right to vote. Bloomer lost her case when the court ruled that the word “citizen” had to be construed as meaning male citizens, since the U.S. Constitution of the time did not give women the right to vote.
In another case in 1888, Rumsey v. Territory, a delighted convict was freed because the grand jury that indicted him included a married woman. The Supreme Court ruled that this was a fatal procedural flaw and overturned his conviction.
Today, 125 years later, the Supreme Court is not only led by a woman, but for the first time it has both a female chief justice and a majority of female justices.
The Supreme Court visit to campus is a rare opportunity both for the community at large and for Puget Sound’s more than 300 pre-law students. Many will have an opportunity to meet the justices, who will be touring campus, lunching with students, and sitting in on classes.
At the court sessions the attorneys for each side will explain the facts of the case and make their arguments. The nine justices can interrupt at any time with questions or comments. The three appeal cases will be:
William John Kipp was convicted of child abuse. At the jury trial in 2009, the defense tried to suppress a recording of a conversation between Kipp and the father of the two girls he was accused of assaulting. Kipp’s defense argued that the recording was made without Kipp’s knowledge or consent and therefore was a “private conversation,” not admissible under the Privacy Act. This argument was rejected and the recording was heard by the court. Kipp has now appealed his conviction, citing the Privacy Act. His case is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Blayne Jeffrey Coley was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor in 2008. In court Coley’s mental stability was questioned and medical examinations followed. Coley claimed he was not mentally competent to stand trial and that the prosecutor had to prove his competence. The court disagreed and ruled that the burden was on Coley to prove his incompetence. After his conviction Coley won an appeal, claiming he was denied due process, and he asked for a reversal of his conviction. That last judgment is now being contested by the state.
Abraham MacDicken was convicted of robbing two people at a Lynnwood hotel at gunpoint. When he was arrested in 2010, the police took his laptop bag and duffel bag, placing them where MacDicken could not reach them. The police searched the bags and used the evidence at trial. MacDicken argues that recent Supreme Court rulings make it necessary for police to have a warrant if they search belongings in a location where the accused cannot access or tamper with the goods. MacDicken is asking the court to reverse his conviction and to order that goods found during the search, including a gun, women’s clothing, and a letter to one of the robbery victims, be suppressed.
For full details about the cases, visit http://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/coaBriefs/index.cfm?fa=coabriefs.briefsByHearingDate&courtId=A08&year=2013#a20130919. The decisions of the court will be posted on the Administrative Office of the Courts website. In 1995 the Washington State Supreme Court became one of the first courts in the world to allow gavel-to-gavel coverage of its cases. The arguments of Sept. 19 will be broadcast later by statewide, public cable television TVW.