Tuesday, August 5, 2008 — This year's state Supreme Court races are quieter affairs than in 2006, thanks to the absence of expensive, special-interest-funded campaigns.
That doesn't mean an absence of spirited debate, fortunately.
In the one contested race that will definitely be decided in the Aug. 19 primary, one-term incumbent Justice Mary Fairhurst is being challenged by Michael Bond, a Seattle attorney with libertarian leanings. Bond argued vigorously in an editorial board interview that Fairhurst has too often sided with government at the expense of individual rights.
Fairhurst responded that she has brought an open-minded approach to the court, ruling on the law as it's written. If the Legislature wants to clarify its intent in any particular circumstance, it is free to do so, she notes.
We think Bond's criticisms of Fairhurst hold some water, but that overall she has been a strong, effective justice who deserves another term.
Some of the decisions Bond criticizes most pointedly we found reasonable. For example, Fairhurst was part of a 5-4 minority that argued the Seattle Housing Authority was within its rights to ban signage on the outside of apartment doors (a swastika and pornography had been posted, sparking neighbor complaints). Fairhurst reasoned that as a landlord, the housing authority had the same rights as a private landlord to make such rules. Bond said he would have ruled that as a public agency, the housing authority had no such right.
And while we fundamentally disagree with Fairhurst's majority opinion last week that allows identities of public school teachers who face unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct to be kept secret, we can appreciate that it was based upon a desire to protect an individual's privacy rights rather than disregard for the public's right to know.
Bond, who has practiced law for 28 years and served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps, bills himself as an outsider running against an Olympia establishment figure. Indeed, Fairhurst's experience before joining the court was all with the state Attorney General's office, save for two years as a state Supreme Court clerk. With the AG's office, however, she worked on a wide variety of cases over 16 years, prepping her well for the types of cases the high court hears. Her long, bipartisan list of endorsements speak of a capable jurist who is widely respected for fairness and competence.
Bond has the potential to be an effective justice, but Washington already has one in Fairhurst. She should be retained.
Sunday, August 3, 2008 — Voters are being asked to decide two races on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench this year. One is a three-way race to replace retiring Judge Richard Thorpe, the other is a rematch of a race run four years ago.
Among the contenders vying for Thorpe's seat (Position 6), we endorse George Appel as the candidate with the best combination of experience, intelligence, humility and temperament.
Joe Wilson, a longtime Everett attorney with an impressive record in the courtroom and in community service, is a close second in our view. Jim Johanson, a one-term state legislator in the early '90s now in private practice, seems better suited for political office than the bench.
If one of the three receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 19 primary, he wins. If not, the top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 4 general election.
Appel, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney, has the potential to be an outstanding judge. He is known as a tireless prosecutor who has earned a reputation as a champion of victims' rights. He has the clear and vocal support of those who have worked most closely with him, and is widely respected throughout the legal community. We think he has what it takes to make consistently sound, well-reasoned judgments. He also has an impressive record of community service, as does Wilson.
Wilson is highly respected throughout Snohomish County, and for good reason. He's a talented and passionate advocate who has handled a variety of cases at all levels of Washington's court system, and he's clearly qualified to serve on the Superior Court bench. Were Appel not in the race, we'd be recommending Wilson.
Johanson is a serious and earnest candidate, but his legal credentials simply don't match those of his opponents for this position.
In the race for Position 8, the incumbent, Eric Lucas, is being challenged by the man he defeated in 2004, former Judge David Hulbert.
We endorse Lucas, though with some concerns. In separate rankings by the Snohomish County Bar Association, one last winter and a recent election-related poll, Lucas received relatively low scores. And Washington Women Lawyers, a group whose recommendation Lucas sought, rated him "unqualified."
Such rankings are largely subjective, and Lucas clearly has substantial support inside and outside the legal community, including the strong endorsement of Snohomish County Prosecutor Janice Ellis. But if he's re-elected, Lucas should take such concerns seriously, find out why they exist and work to address them.
Hulbert, who voters rejected four years ago, also had low rankings in the bar's election poll -- lower than Lucas'. He's running aggressively to get his old job back, saying he's ready to address his own shortcomings. We think the court is better off with Lucas -- a good judge with room for improvement.
VotingforJudges.org, P.O. Box 1460, Silverdale, WA
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