Archived Version: August 17, 2010


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Kitsap Sun

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Our Picks for the Supreme Court

Thursday, August 5, 2010In terms of representative government, it’s a continually frustrating contradiction: Voters often know the least about candidates for offices that matter the most.

In particular, that applies to contenders for the Supreme Court of the State of Washington. Although voters may be reasonably acquainted with local legislative candidates, each legislator is only one of 147 serving in the state House and Senate. By contrast, there only are nine state Supreme Court justices, sitting on a court that can affirm or deny the constitutionality of bills passed by the Legislature — but quite likely, many voters know little about court candidates beyond their names on a ballot.

On the Aug. 17 ballot for Supreme Court Position 6, incumbent Justice Richard Sanders is facing challengers Bryan Chushcoff of Vashon Island and Charlie Wiggins of Bainbridge Island. If one of the three wins more than 50 percent of the vote, he will be elected to office; if not, the two top vote-getters will advance to November’s general election. For the primary, our board’s choices are Sanders and Chushcoff.

Wiggins is locally well-known and deservedly well-regarded. Since launching a law office on Bainbridge in 1996, he has built it into a three-lawyer firm specializing in civil appeals. In 1995, he served a partial term on the state Court of Appeals. Prior to that, he was in an appellant-oriented Seattle law firm for 18 years. He also was instrumental in creating the judicial candidate information website votingforjudges.org; he has no role in the site’s administration or content.

Chushcoff is in his 14th year as a Pierce County Superior Court judge, where he has twice been elected as its presiding judge. Chushcoff said before his election to the bench, he was a lawyer for 19 years, founding a law firm in which he represented hundreds of working-class families with a wide range of legal issues.

Since being elected to the court 15 years ago, Sanders has earned a reputation as a maverick, a staunch civil libertarian whose opinions span the political spectrum. Sanders says his avowed mission on the court is to defend individual rights. He readily acknowledges being a “unique, different voice” on the court, but feels it’s needed to level the playing field for those who have been oppressed by government. It is, he said, similar to the role of legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas of Yakima.

Although Sanders’ opponents feel he’s too agenda-driven to be impartial, our board is supportive of having a justice representing the “little guy’s rights” on our state’s high court. Because of his extensive service and more wide-ranging experience on the Pierce County Superior Court, our board also is recommending Chushcoff as a solid choice for those who may disagree with Sanders’ judicial philosophy.


 
 

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As the election approaches, Votingforjudges.org will include ratings and endorsements from numerous organizations. We provide this information so that voters will be better informed about the candidates. We do not rate or endorse any candidates; the ratings and endorsements of organizations included at this site reflect the views of those individual organizations and not necessarily the views of votingforjudges.org or its sponsors.