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Bond, Johnson for Supreme Court

We endorse Michael Bond instead of incumbent Mary Fairhurst for justice of the Washington Supreme Court, and incumbent Charles Johnson over two challengers.

Friday, August 1, 2008 In two races for the Washington Supreme Court, this page endorses one incumbent and one challenger.

Start with the challenger, Michael Bond.

Bond has a sharp mind, he knows the law and he presents a compelling case to replace the one-term Mary Fairhurst. In a sentence, the case is this: Fairhurst, who used to have a job defending the government, accepts the government's arguments and excuses far too much now that she is on the court. Consider the following 10 questions, all the subject of divided rulings:

Whether a transit agency can withhold documents by broadly asserting attorney-client privilege;

Whether a public school that investigated the death of a schoolboy can keep the report secret;

Whether the state has the constitutional power to rule on the truth of political ads;

Whether a transit agency can take private property permanently to satisfy a short-term need;

Whether a vague notice on an Internet page is sufficient for a public meeting on the taking of private property;

Whether a prisoner may be force-fed;

Whether a public-housing manager can ban tenants from posting signs on their hallway doors;

Whether the death penalty remains constitutional;

Whether a city can forbid a private hauler from picking up construction waste in order to protect a franchisee, and

Whether the state can limit marriage to a man and a woman.

In all but the last 9 out of 10 Fairhurst sided with government. In a couple of these cases we agreed with her, but the pattern is troubling. With her it seems not so much an ideology as a sympathy and a habit: Her previous job was defending state agencies.

Contrast this with Bond, a private attorney who says, "My fundamental philosophy is that the role of the court is to protect the people from the power of government and vested interests." Bond hits Fairhurst's stands against individual rights to speech, public documents, property and privacy.

Bond is a partner in Gardner Bond Tabolsi, Seattle, and is a longtime civil litigator. He has been an arbitrator, and attorneys speak highly of his fairness. Early in his career, when he was a judge advocate in the Marines, he prosecuted a drill instructor for battery.

Bond has an uphill fight he has raised less than one-tenth the cash Fairhurst has but we believe he is the best candidate to protect the rights of the people.

In the other race, we support 18-year incumbent Justice Charles Johnson, who is challenged by attorneys Jim Beecher and Frank Vulliet. Johnson says he is "somewhat of a populist" who tends to side with the individual. He does this strongly in free-speech and public-disclosure cases, and tends to do it in criminal cases. In the Cross case, he was ready to rule the death penalty unconstitutional.

Johnson tends to side with the government in closely fought property cases, such as the fourth and fifth cases in the list above, in which we believe the owners had the stronger claims. The justice is very good on public-disclosure issues and sided with the minority in the case involving a school district's ability to withhold the names of teachers alleged to have had sexual incidents with children.

Of his two challengers, only Jim Beecher of the firm Hackett, Beecher & Hart, presents much of a case against Johnson, and in the end it is not enough. Beecher has fine qualifications, but at 68, he could serve for only one term. We'll stick with Johnson.


Hunt for Appeals Court

Friday, August 8, 2008 In the Court of Appeals, Division II Kitsap, Thurston and the Olympic Peninsula we endorse Judge Robin Hunt for a third, six-year term.

We do not agree with Hunt's rulings on public disclosure, particularly her ruling that the Northwest Pipeline Co. could cite "terrorism" as a reason to deny pipeline documents to The Bellingham Herald newspaper.

On the other hand, she ruled courageously on the teachers' union paycheck-protection case, siding with individuals and freedom of choice. That case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed with her.

Hunt's challenger is Tim Ford, the open-government ombudsman for Attorney General Rob McKenna and was deputy state solicitor. Before working for McKenna, he was the in-house counsel for the Building Industry Association of Washington, which paid for some of the nastiest ads in previous judicial races.

We have seen no such ads in Ford's race, and don't expect any.

We like Ford's emphasis on protecting the individual citizen and his enthusiastic support of public disclosure, but he has no judicial record and no jury-trial experience. It's not enough to dislodge Judge Hunt.


Six outstanding candidates for
King County Superior Court

For King County Superior Court, The Times endorses Laura Middaugh, Jean Rietschel, Julia Garratt, Regina Cahan, Susan Amini and Mariane Spearman.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Six seats on the bench are contested at King County Superior Court, and all six may be decided in the primary election of Aug. 19. All are nonpartisan. All but one are open seats, as lawyers are reluctant to challenge a sitting judge.

The one incumbent with a challenger is in Position 26: Laura Middaugh, 59, who challenged and beat incumbent Jeannette Burrage six years ago. Challenger Matthew Hale notes that Middaugh was once called "highhanded" in a press report; Middaugh allows that "my face shows what I think" and that she has been "in touch with a demeanor specialist."

She is probably the best option. Hale has been a lawyer only four years and is not qualified to be a Superior Court judge.

In the five remaining races, all the candidates come with good qualifications. In choosing our favorites, we have aimed for a mix not all prosecutors, not all defense attorneys and not all government employees. A mix of endorsements from Democrats and Republicans was also a plus, as were ratings of various legal-minded groups. Having a strong list of donors also helped.

One note on the lack of diversity: We offer here a list that is all women but 78 percent of the candidates are women.

For Position 37, we support Jean Rietschel, 58, who has been a Seattle Municipal Court judge for 12 years and has the highest ratings of the King County Bar Association and the Municipal League. Before becoming a judge she was a public defender, a useful background on a bench heavy with former prosecutors.

Her opponents, civil litigator Nic Corning and former prosecutor Barbara Mack, would probably make good judges, but Rietschel already is one.

For similar reasons, Julia Garratt, 54, wins our endorsement for Position 22. She has been a Superior Court judge pro tem a substitute judge for six years. She was a deputy prosecutor and a public defender, giving her a feel for both sides. She is on the state Parole Board.

Her experience outmatches opponent Rebeccah Graham, a pro tem judge, and Holly Hill, who has spent much of her career teaching courtroom practice rather than engaging in it.

For Position 10 we endorse Regina Cahan, 46, King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney. All the candidates in these races are bright, but Cahan is exceptionally so. She has prosecuted capital cases and has worked on a battered-women's project.

Opponent Les Ponomarchuk, Superior Court commissioner, is also a strong candidate. Private-practice attorney Jean Bouffard, who entered the race late, is less competitive.

Two other government attorneys are running for Position 1: Tim Bradshaw, a prosecutor with King County, and Sue Parisien of the state Attorney General's Office.

Both are fine candidates, but we endorse Susan Amini, 50, for some special reasons. An immigrant educated in Paris and Tehran, she left Iran at the time of Ayatollah Khomeini and went to law school in Maryland. In Bellevue she built up a private practice in family law, personal injury, immigration and criminal defense. She knows the problems of immigrants and has become an expert on the rights of the disabled, having had to advocate for her legally blind son, now a Rhodes scholar. She also has raised more money than both her opponents combined, and from a long list of contributors.

For Position 53 we support Mariane Spearman, 51, who was elected to District Court in 2000, 2002 and 2006, has a solid background in handling jury trials, and is ready to move up.

Opponent Ann Danieli, who has been a public defender, a prosecutor and judge pro tem, is also a fine candidate.


 
 

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