Skagit Valley Herald
Choose Wiggins for high court; Sanders must go
October 26, 2010 — State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders has had his day on the court, after 15 years. Now it is time for him and his idiosyncratic approach to justice to move on.
His self-avowed libertarian views too often translate into favoring criminals over victims, businesses over consumers, and lawyers over clients in disciplinary proceedings.
There was a time when his contrarian opinions contributed something to reasoned discourse on the court. But he seems to have become more erratic with time.
Respected Bainbridge Island attorney Charles Wiggins offers the ideal replacement for the 65-year-old Sanders.
Wiggins has served on the Washington Court of Appeals and has been a superior court pro tem judge in King and Jefferson counties. He is a former chairman of the State Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board and Court Rules Committee.
He has been endorsed by most of the state’s elected county prosecutors and police organizations, motivated by Sanders’ bizarre inclination to side with criminals in cases before the court.
Wiggins, 60, has had a distinguished career both on the appeals court and as a practicing attorney in Kitsap County. He has also worked successfully with others concerned with judicial ethics to limit campaign contributions in judicial races to $1,600.
The limit seems particularly germane given that Sanders benefited from huge contributions from the building industry in his 2004 campaign: $20,000 from the Affordable Housing Council of Washington and $15,000 from the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW).
Both organizations are frequently in court on land use, taxation and worker safety issues. They are particularly focused on fighting environmental regulations.
Wiggins points out that BIAW has filed 28 friend-of-the-court petitions in various cases and Sanders sided with the organization in 25 of them. Asked about the matter in public forums, Sanders insists the contributions did not affect his opinions.
Sanders made headlines in 2006 when he visited the McNeil Island prison for violent sexual predators and interviewed inmates, some of whom had cases before the court. He was admonished for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Sanders has sided with defendants accused of stalking women, a man convicted of exposing himself to women in a college library and a teacher convicted of molesting a 13-year-old girl, and he was against disbarring a lawyer who molested an 11-year-old boy who was his client.
Some who have embraced Sanders for another term suggest his “iconoclastic” views as a reason for keeping him around. We would compare it more to the balmy uncle you like because he can occasionally be so outrageously entertaining.
Sanders’ views are, at bottom, not as iconoclastic as they are embarrassing.
Wiggins would bring a sense of balance and his already-demonstrated judicial temperament to the court. He is by far the best choice.
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