In just a matter of days, on December 6th, same-sex couples will be able to apply for marriage licenses. The passing of Referendum 74 in Washington State has sparked some interesting legal questions for both attorneys and those directly affected by the new bill. For instance, because the bill phases out domestic partnerships (except for seniors) what happens to couples who are already registered as domestic partners? If neither partner is at least 62 years of age as of June 30, 2014, and the couple does not get married, then the domestic partnership dissolves. On the other hand, the couple may choose to get married and may do so as early as December 9, 2012. One question that comes up then is what would be the legal date of the marriage? Despite what many may assume, it would not be the date of the wedding ceremony but the date of the original registered domestic partnership. So if a couple registered for a domestic partnership in 2010 and then gets married in 2012, the legal date of the marriage would be the 2010 date.
These questions along with others – and their answers – have legal implications for estate planning, dissolutions, and tax paying. For more information regarding same-sex marriage in Washington State, visit http://legalvoice.org/news/documents/2012MarriageQA_000.pdf.
Last Thursday Ivy Law Group participated in the Great Washington ShakeOut, which was a scheduled earthquake drill occurring at 10:18 a.m. About 720,000 people in the state took part in the drill, as well as almost 12.5 million participants worldwide (although all international drills did not take place at the same time.) The purpose of the drill is to increase preparedness and therefore to decrease the potential for injuries and damage.
We conducted the drill at our office, a 100-year-old house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. At the stroke of 10:18, Jessica hollered “Earthquake!” and we all got under our desks, which are supplied with whistles and water. Our “earthquake” lasted one minute, and then we did a health and safety check of the staff and building. We are happy to report minor damage! Finally, we updated our emergency supply kit.
The majority of our state is prone to earthquakes, and a small amount of preparation can go a long way toward easing the effects of a disaster. (Just this past Saturday a magnitude 7.7 quake hit the west coast of Canada.) At Ivy Law Group we believe strongly in preparedness. Call or email and find out about our rule of the Seven P’s! Or learn more about earthquake preparedness and how to register for next year’s drill by visitinghttp://www.shakeout.org/washington/.
Most of us have been approached or pulled over by a law enforcement officer at some point in our lives. It can be an intimidating experience, but by knowing your rights you can avoid making detrimental decisions based on misinformation or fear.
If you are pulled over by an officer, you have the right not to answer any questions. You must show your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration if asked to do so, and you must exit the car if asked to do so. But unless the officer has probable cause to search your car, the officer may not conduct a search without your consent. You can simply say “I do not give my consent.” If you are treated badly by the officer, write down the officer’s badge number and name (which you have a right to ask for.) Also, if you have any suspicion that the person who pulled you over is not actually an officer, lock your doors and call 911 to get verification.
To find out more, including your rights regarding arrests, searches and warrants, and traveling through airports, go to: http://www.aclu.org/files/kyr/kyr_english.pdf
You Might be Eligible to Vote and Don’t Know it
With elections fast approaching, it seems like a good time to get the word out about voting reform in our state. In 2009 a bill was passed that restored the right of convicted felons to vote. More than three years later many citizens are unaware of this fact and still assume that they cannot register.
The reform measure made it possible for individuals who are no longer in prison (and are no longer under state-supervised parole or probation) to vote. Even if the individual still has a debt to repay, he or she is automatically eligible. If you are unsure whether you are able to register you can take an online quiz on voting rights at http://aclu-wa.org/quiz-voting-rights.
The Legislative Director of ACLU-WA, Shankar Narayan, stated that “[p]eople who vote are at less risk of reoffending, and that leads to safer communities for us all.” So help spread the word – and happy voting!
“People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing.” Walter H. Judd
Seahawks v Packers: American Justice?
No one who was watching the game this past Monday thought that the Seahawks were going to win. With the Hawks lagging behind 12-7 and down to their final play, it seemed like a sure thing for Green Bay. Then quarterback Russell Wilson threw a desperation pass all the way to the end zone and suddenly there was hope for Seahawks fans. Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate both jumped for it in a seemingly simultaneous catch, although it was difficult to ascertain who had control of the ball. The ruling on the field was in favor of the Seahawks. Upon review, the officials upheld the on-field ruling. The next day the NFL reviewed the ruling again, and again confirmed the previous rulings.
Why do we have this method of review? In a sense, it mirrors our court system. The lowest court acts as the referees on the field, observing the actual players, taking in the facts. It can seem as if one side has it “won,” when suddenly a witness introduces new evidence that makes the judge or jury start to scratch their heads. Once the facts have been presented (or the play has come to an end) a ruling must be made. If the decision is sent up for review to an appellate court, the acting judge is no longer on the “field.” He or she does not hear actual testimony, but simply reviews the previous decision and the facts as they were gleaned from the lower court. The original ruling is either upheld or overturned. The theory behind multiple levels of review is that with more scrutiny, the closer we can get to truth and justice. That said, the process can sometimes seem unfair. Judges (and referees) have varying levels of expertise, and different judges can view the same facts in a different light, making the ultimate decision depend upon which judge heard the case last. As Green Bay Packers fans, and many participants in the American legal system know, it is an imperfect system!
Child Abuse, highlighted in the news from Penn State, is always a tragic story of victims. I understand the rush to judgment, but it is important to remember that ignorance and shame are huge factors. The reality is that most perpetrators were themselves victims. The challenge for us all is to identify and treat the victims before they in turn victimize.