Archived Version: August 17, 2010

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Sanders, Johnson right for high court

Friday, August 6, 2010 Washington voters will fill one possibly two state Supreme Court positions in this month's primary election. The Aug. 17 primary will decide the race for Position 1 between Justice Jim Johnson and challenger Stan Rumbaugh. Justice Richard Sanders faces two challengers, Bryan Chushcoff and Charlie Wiggins, in his re-election bid for Position 6. Unless one of the candidates in that race gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.

The Daily News is recommending that voters return both Johnson and Sanders to the state Supreme Court. It was not the easy call we had anticipated before learning something about, and talking with, the two justices' challengers. All three have impressive resumes, and they've all mounted what appear to be well-organized, hard-hitting campaigns. The voting could be very close in both races.

Johnson faces an experienced and well-respected attorney in Rumbaugh, who has been in private practice in Tacoma for almost 31 years. Rumbaugh criticizes Johnson as being too close to and, presumably, inclined to favor corporate interests. That criticism doesn't resonate with us.

We did not endorse Justice Johnson when he ran for the then-open Supreme Court seat six years ago against former state Court of Appeals Judge Mary Kay Becker. We were impressed by Becker's decade of experience on the court immediately below the state Supreme Court. But Johnson's first term on the high court has impressed us as one easily deserving of a second six-year term. If Johnson was carrying any water for corporate interests, we didn't see it. What we witnessed was a knowledgeable justice who strictly adhered to the state Constitution and a champion of individual rights and government transparency. Johnson is a dependably conservative jurist. His voice brings some balance to a court that is mostly moderate to progressive.

The same might be said of Justice Sanders, a libertarian. His critics might label him a contrarian. Sanders seems most comfortable in the minority. He sometimes has been the lone voice of dissent. But it's a principled, well-reasoned dissent. Sanders has been a champion of property rights and a passionate defender of individual rights throughout his 15 years on the state Supreme Court. His two worthy opponents - Wiggins, a Bainbridge Island attorney and former Court of Appeals judge, and Chushcoff, a long-time Pierce County Superior Court judge - argue that Sanders dissents too often and sometimes carries his defense of individual rights in criminal cases too far. We believe court opinions have benefited from Sanders' independent thinking and strong support for the rights of the accused, even when he's been in the minority.

Washingtonians have been well-served by the presence of both Sanders and Johnson on state Supreme Court. We urge voters to give the two justices another six years.

Experience makes Johanson the best pick
for Court of Appeals

Thursday, July 22, 2010 Many people may still be having a hard time adjusting to the state's mid-summer primary election date. For several generations, Washingtonians didn't have to begin giving serious thought to the candidates until sometime around Labor Day. This year marks only the third time that voters will have to shake off their summer mind-set, and complete and return primary ballots in August.

But mail-in ballots will soon be in hand. Now is the time to focus particularly on one local race that will be decided in the Aug. 17 primary. Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Jill Johanson and long-time Kelso attorney Joseph Daggy are vying to replace state Court of Appeals Judge C.C. Bridgewater, who is not seeking re-election.

The Daily News editorial board believes Johanson could best fill Bridgewater's Division II seat on the state Court of Appeals. Johanson's candidacy is endorsed by a long list of superior and appeals court judges and, in our view, supported by her experience on the bench.

We also were impressed by Johanson's straightforward and clear-headed answer to a question posed recently by Daily News reporter Tony Lystra. When asked if judges should be elected or appointed, Johanson said she is "now coming to the position that we should be appointed and stand a retention election."

We think this is the thoughtful position, though it might not be popular with some voters. But make no mistake, Johanson does not fear the judgment of voters. Far from it, she connects well with the people she serves. Johanson was clearly the people's choice in 2002, when she won impressively in a hard-fought race to retain Cowlitz County Superior Court position she had been appointed to fill on an interim basis in June of that year.

The qualities Johanson demonstrated in her winning 2002 campaign caused some of her rival's supporters ourselves included to view her abilities in a new light. And our impression of Johanson and her qualifications has only grown more positive over the years.

Johanson has served the court and the people well for more than eight years now, seizing every opportunity to grow professionally. Her judicial education includes the Washington State Judicial College in 2003, the National Judicial College in 2004, and the National Bureau of Justice Family Dependency Treatment Court Training in 2005. Johanson also is a member the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the Washington State Association of Drug Court Professionals. She's participated in many Superior Court Spring and Fall Conferences and in the 2006 Pacific Rim Methamphetamine Summit.

Johanson believes judicial experience is an important attribute for a state Court of Appeals judge. We agree, and urge voters to give Johanson the opportunity to serve on the state court., P.O. Box 1460, Silverdale, WA  98383
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