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In Washington, the Committed Intimate Relationship (“CIR”) doctrine protects the interests of certain unmarried individuals when they end a committed relationship. This doctrine assists in the resolution of property distribution when certain unmarried couples separate.  A CIR occurs when a couple has a marriage-like relationship but know that they are not lawfully married.  Courts consider certain factors to determine if a couple had a CIR, including the relationship’s length, its purpose, continuous cohabitation, pooling of resources and services, and the parties’ intent. Connell v. Francisco. In a recent Washington divorce case, the husband challenged the court’s characterization of certain property as separate by alleging the parties were engaged in a CIR prior to their marriage.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the parties started dating in 2006 and moved in together in early 2009.  Each of them moved away for a while during the relationship.

The wife claimed their relationship was “rocky” because of infidelity, but both parties stated they never broke up while they were dating.

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A guilty plea by a Washington criminal defendant must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.  A plea can only be voluntary if the defendant understands both the nature of the charges against him or her and the consequences of pleading guilty.  The trial court must be “satisfied that there is a factual basis for the plea.” CrR 4.2.

A defendant recently challenged his guilty plea, arguing there was not a sufficient factual basis for the sentencing enhancement.  According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the defendant pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter with a deadly weapon sentencing enhancement.  The defendant gave a brief statement of guilt stating he “acted recklessly and caused the death of [the victim],” with no mention of a deadly weapon. Although there was a box on the form to indicate the defendant did not make a statement and had agreed the court could review other documents for the factual basis, it was not checked.

The trial court accepted the plea.  The defendant was sentenced to 158 months, increased to 182 months with the sentencing enhancement.

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Suspension or expulsion after a finding of sexual misconduct in a Title IX investigation can permanently affect a person’s professional opportunities and future.  In some cases, students have been successful in enjoining the school from enforcing such disciplinary action pending a lawsuit, but a New Hampshire federal court recently denied a plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

According to the court order, the plaintiff and his roommate were fourth-year medical students when the incident occurred.  On July 11, 2020, they both fell asleep on the sofa watching a movie after eating and drinking together. According to both men, the plaintiff performed oral sex on the roommate, but the events leading up to that act were in dispute.  The roommate alleged that he woke up with his underwear down and the plaintiff caressing him.  The plaintiff alleged that he was “blacked out” and the roommate woke him up with his genitals exposed.  Neither party filed a complaint immediately after the incident.

Soon after the incident, the plaintiff decided to take an unrelated leave of absence from school.

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Pursuant to RCW 26.50.110(5), violation of certain Washington protection orders is a class C felony if the defendant has two or more prior convictions for violating specified types of protection orders. A defendant recently challenged his felony convictions, arguing the state failed to prove the validity of one of his prior convictions.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the defendant entered a guilty plea to violating a protection order in 1992.  The county clerk’s office destroyed most of the related records since then.  In 2019, the only record left was a seven-page document titled “DOCKET.” This document contained clerk entries related to the prosecution of that case.

In 2019, the district court in another county entered a no-contact order prohibiting the defendant from contacting his girlfriend.  He was later charged with three counts of felony violation of a no-contact order based on alleged calls he made to her from jail.  He was charged with felonies based on the state’s allegations he had two previous convictions for violating an order.  If he did not have prior convictions, the alleged violations would just be misdemeanors instead of felonies.

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Inherited property is generally characterized as separate property in a Washington divorce, but what if the spouse signs a quitclaim deed adding the other spouse to the title? The Washington Supreme Court has clarified that the joint title gift presumption does not apply when a court divides property in a divorce. The court must instead determine whether the spouse intended to convert the property to community property.

According to the opinion, the wife’s mother died the year after the parties married and left half her estate to the wife, some of which would be through future distributions.  The wife inherited a 50% interest in a property in Arlington and the parties moved there.

In 2003, the parties started a horse breeding and training business.  They decided to purchase property in Ford in 2005 with a loan secured by the Arlington property. The lender required the husband to be added to the Arlington property title.  The wife executed a quitclaim deed conveying her interest to her husband and herself “to establish community property.” She did not remember signing the deed and said she had only done so because it was required by the loan.  She claimed they only intended to keep the loan until they could sell the Arlington property.  She testified she did not intend to convert it to community property.

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In 2020, the Department of Education published a Final Rule revising the regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 .The 2020 Final Rule prohibits a school from imposing disciplinary actions or other actions other than supportive measures against a respondent to a Title IX complaint before following the grievance process.  34 CFR § 106.45(b)(1)(i).

Supportive measures are non-disciplinary and non-punitive services, designed to preserve or restore equal access to the school’s programs or activities without unreasonably burdening the other party. 34 CFR § 106.30. The preamble to the Final Rule states that determining whether a particular action is unreasonably burdensome is fact specific.  The preamble clarifies that housing and schedule adjustments are not automatically unreasonable burdens on the respondent.  Consideration of whether a burden is unreasonable is not limited to access to academic programs.  Instead, schools must consider whether the respondent’s “access to the array of educational opportunities and benefits” the school offered is unreasonably burdened.  The preamble specifically notes that a schedule adjustment may be considered a reasonable burden more often than a restriction on participating in sports or extracurricular activity.

A school’s grievance process must either list or describe the range of disciplinary actions that may be imposed on a respondent if he or she is found responsible.  The preamble clarifies that in listing a particular action, the school is identifying it as disciplinary and it therefore cannot be a “supportive measure.” According to the preamble, if a school lists sports ineligibility as a potential disciplinary sanction in its grievance process, then it cannot implement sports ineligibility as a supportive measure before following the grievance process. If the school does not list it as a potential sanction, then it may use sports ineligibility as a supportive measure only if it is not used as a disciplinary or punitive action and does not unreasonably burden the respondent.

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When a court enters certain types of Washington protection orders, it must also require the surrender of firearms and other weapons upon a proper showing that the respond used, displayed, or threatened to use a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a felony or that the respondent is not eligible to possess a firearm pursuant to RCW 9.41.040. RCW 9.41.800. An ex-husband recently challenged a court’s order of contempt for failure to surrender his weapons.

His ex-wife petitioned for a domestic violence protection order (“DVPO”) against him, alleging multiple instances of abuse.  She stated he put a laser on his gun and pointed the laser at her forehead, telling her that was “where the bullet is going to land.” In another incident, she stated he told her he would kill her if she left while holding a gun to her head.  She attached a photo of a firearm and another of the ex-husband with a firearm.

The court issued a temporary DVPO and an order to surrender weapons on November 20, 2020.

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Generally, hearsay is excluded from evidence, though there are some exceptions.  Hearsay is a statement made outside court and offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. ER 801.  If, however, the prosecution in a Washington criminal case wants to present an out-of-court statement for a purpose other than its truth, the court must consider whether that purpose is relevant.  If the purpose is not relevant, the statement should be excluded.

A defendant recently challenged his convictions after the trial court admitted a statement from dispatch over his objection.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, officers responded to a call from a father who reported being involved in an argument with his son, the defendant.  The caller said his son had put gasoline into two paper cups.  When the officers arrived at the gas station, they could not find either the father or the defendant. One officer drove toward the father’s house.  He saw the defendant walking along the road with a grocery bag.

The officer called out to the defendant by name over the car’s speaker and the defendant lay on the ground.  When the other officer arrived, the defendant was sitting on the ground. The bag in his hand was leaking something that smelled like gas.  He asked if he was free to go. When the officers told him he was, he started walking toward his father’s home.

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In a Washington divorce, inheritance will generally be considered separate property.  What happens, though, when a spouse uses separate property to pay off the debt on a community asset? A Washington appeals court recently considered this issue.

According to the unpublished opinion, the wife bought a home in California while the parties were dating.  The husband moved in with her a couple of months later. After they married in 2002, they formed a trust with the two of them as co-trustees.  The trust stated that all property held in joint tenancy was their community property. The wife signed a quitclaim deed conveying the house to the two of them as trustees as community property. In 2013, they executed another quitclaim deed as trustees, this time transferring the property to the two of them as spouses “as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”

They lived in the house together for 14 years and refinanced it at least three times. They both paid on the mortgage, but the wife ultimately paid it off in 2015 using funds she received from an inheritance. They sold the house in 2016.  They then moved to Washington.

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In considering a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, the court must take into account the likelihood of success on the merits, the potential for irreparable harm, a balance of the hardships, and the public interest.  Injunctions can therefore be difficult to obtain because the court is heavily focused on how likely the moving party is to win their case.

A student recently obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining his university from implementing a preliminary suspension.  The plaintiff was a senior and student athlete at a Rhode Island university when a Title IX complaint was filed against him alleging sexual assault.  A “Threat Assessment Team” (the “team”) recommended interim suspension because of “the egregious nature of the alleged behavior.”

The plaintiff appealed the interim suspension. He was allowed to finish the semester remotely and the issue of suspension was remanded to the team to reconsider based on his response to the complaint.  The result was that the plaintiff was to be suspended on January 7, 2022, pending completion of the Title IX process.

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