District Court-- We rule for Sanderson,
Engel and Everett
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 — Yakima County voters in
November will decide candidates for three judgeships on the Yakima
County District Court: two open seats plus an incumbent facing a
Position 2 finds Yakima attorneys Brian Sanderson and Glen Warren
seeking the seat now held by the retiring Rod Fitch. Position 3 Judge
Don Engel has a challenger in Yakima County deputy prosecutor Steve
Keller. In Position 4, Grandview attorney and Wapato Municipal Judge
Mike Everett is squaring off against Wilkinson Corp. general counsel
Doug Federspiel for the seat now held by Ralph Thompson, who was
appointed in 2008. Position 1 Judge Kevin Roy is unopposed.
District Court judges hear both criminal and civil cases. Among the
most serious of those criminal cases are drunken driving, hit-and-run
and domestic violence; others include assault, harassment, resisting
arrest, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving. District
courts also have jurisdiction over infractions like speeding, disorderly
conduct, driving with an expired license and littering.
Candidates who offered the most applicable experience in District
Court-type cases fared best in interviews with the Yakima
Herald-Republic editorial board. The board offers the following
Sanderson's six years as a Selah Municipal Court judge and 10 years
as judge pro tem in Superior and District courts give him the edge over
Glen Warren. He has attended the Washington State Judicial College,
which trains new judges. As a lawyer, Sanderson has specialized in
defending employers in workers' compensation cases but also has done
criminal defense work.
Warren argues his 32 years of legal experience make him best
qualified. He has handled public defender contracts with Yakima and
Union Gap municipal courts and has done public defense work in District
Court. He also has served as a Superior Court-appointed arbitrator for
the past 10 years and was recently sworn in as a judge pro tem in
Superior Court. Warren, 59, argues that his "life experience" and longer
legal tenure entitle him to the job over the younger Sanderson, 43: "My
opponent has spent a lot of time practicing to be a judge," Warren told
the editorial board. "You can't replace 32 years of experience."
But we find Sanderson's experience to be more applicable. He argues
that it was the respect of Superior Court judges that led to his
handling complex cases while judge pro-tem: "It's not just merely a
list. They pick a judge who can do the job," Sanderson says.
Both acknowledge financial constraints facing courts these days.
Warren is a strong advocate of a DUI court, similar to a drug court, in
which prosecution is deferred if a defendant agrees to rehabilitation.
County officials are studying such a court. Sanderson cites what he
calls the "Selah approach" on fines, waiving a minimum assessment for
indigent defendants in favor of getting them to pay something. He also
wants to look at payment plans for fines.
The Yakima County Bar Association polls its members on how judicial
candidates rank in seven areas: judicial temperament, judicial
experience, legal experience, legal analytical ability, communication
ability, knowledge of community and ability to be impartial.
In ranking areas in which the judges rated highly qualified, the bar
association overwhelmingly ranked Sanderson higher across the board, and
Engel, who was appointed in 2004 and was unopposed for a full term in
2006, this year draws a challenger in Steve Keller.
Keller, who has worked 28 years as a county deputy prosecutor, bases
his campaign on complaints from two Washington State Patrol troopers
that Engel was slow to issue search warrants for blood to be drawn from
a driver in two drunken-driving cases. Engel defends his actions,
arguing the request for the warrants came after a two-hour threshold, a
standard upheld by the state Supreme Court. Engel said he never heard
anyone from the State Patrol make an issue of the warrants. We don't see
the warrants issue as changing the game or as a need to change the
The two agree on most other issues. Both want to give DUI courts a
hard look, both advocate use of technology to cut filing costs, both
agree District Court is a bare-bones financial operation.
The county bar association consistently gives Engel the most "highly
qualified" ratings in all categories, and we go along with that.
Position 4: Mike
Attorneys with very different backgrounds, experiences and styles are
competing for the Thompson seat. And while the individuals are
different, our call is close.
Everett comes across as the folksy small-town lawyer that he is, with
six years as a part-time Wapato Municipal Court judge. He estimates he
has argued 10,000 cases as a criminal attorney in Municipal and District
courts and has argued two cases before the Washington state Supreme
Court. He has served 10 years on the Grandview City Council and in the
early 1980s ran for state Senate as a Democrat.
Doug Federspiel offers the intellectualism and insights of an
experienced trial lawyer, which he is with Yakima's Wilkinson Corp.
Before that he worked for Velikanje Moore & Shore, and he has tried
cases in District Court. He has some experience as a judge pro tem in
Superior Court and juvenile court, and has tried cases all over the
United States in a variety of levels all the way up to federal courts.
Either one would serve well as District Court judge, but we like Mike
Everett's experience and observations in dealing with the sorts of cases
that come before a District Court judge, along with his recognition that
Yakama Nation officials need to be included in confronting the
drunken-driving problem in this county. Federspiel rates higher overall
in a county bar poll that gives Everett the edge in a couple of areas.
We recognize and respect that, but based on our interview, we rule in
favor of Mike Everett for Position 4.
* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are James
E. Stickel, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.
We reiterate-- Wiggins
offers solid experience for court
Monday, October 18, 2010 — In the August primary, we
wrote it was time for a new face and outlook on the Washington state
Supreme Court as we endorsed former Court of Appeals Judge Charlie
Wiggins over incumbent Justice Richard Sanders.
What held in August holds for November.
Wiggins would bring solid experience to the bench. In addition to
serving on the state Court of Appeals, he has been a pro tem Superior
Court judge in King and Jefferson counties. He also once headed the
disciplinary board of the state bar association.
In an joint appearance with Sanders before the Yakima Herald-Republic
editorial board last summer, Wiggins took issue with Sanders over
ethical concerns, arguing Sanders has too often failed to maintain
impartiality. One example involved Sanders visiting a commitment center
holding violent sexual predators, one of whom was named in a pending
case before the court. For this action, a special panel of the Supreme
Court admonished Sanders. The justice later disqualified himself in the
Wiggins reserved his most blistering criticism of Sanders over
disciplinary action against attorneys. The action involved an attorney
who was convicted of first-degree child molestation of the 11-year-old
son of a single mother who had been the attorney's former client. While
eight justices strongly recommended disbarment of the attorney, Sanders
dissented, arguing that when it comes to actions involving a former
client, the Supreme Court should have followed the recommended sanctions
of discipline by the American Bar Association: suspension, not
disbarment. Sanders determined that the boy was not technically a client
of the judge.
We fail to follow this logic, or lack thereof. Sanders' dissent
totally ignored the issue of trust between an attorney and the families
whom he represents -- along with the heinous crime the attorney
Sanders is an ardent proponent of individual rights, especially those
of the accused. But we argued in August he has become so passionate
about protecting these rights that he has lost sight of his role as an
arbiter of justice and finds himself, as in the case of the attorney
convicted of child molestation, advocating a tortured line of argument.
Sanders is an ardent proponent of access to public records, a stand
that brings a hearty cheer from our quarter. But in too many ways he is
out of the mainstream.
Justice Sanders prides himself as the great dissenter on the Supreme
Court. In fact, on his website, Sanders claims 367 dissenting opinions
out of a total of 566 cases since he joined the court in 1995.
We dissent on Sanders' dissents and support
Charles Wiggins for state Supreme
* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial
board are James E. Stickel, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen