Wiggins and Johnson for state Supreme Court
Thursday, July 29, 2010 — Primary ballots for Benton and Franklin counties should be in your mailbox today. Since the Supreme Court races will be decided in the primary election, if any candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, we're recommending now in these two races.
Experience counts for a lot in judicial races.
All other things being equal, years on the job usually trump an untested challenger.
But state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders has made some unpopular decisions that have made him vulnerable this election.
Ready to take advantage of that are challengers Charlie Wiggins, a go-getter attorney from Bainbridge Island, and Bryan Chushcoff, a thoughtful Pierce County Superior Court judge.
Of the three, Wiggins gets our nod for the Aug. 17 primary election.
Sanders has been on the Supreme Court bench for 15 years and has written more opinions during his time on the court than any other member. A libertarian, he has a reputation for being an independent thinker and often holds a dissenting view. That's not a bad thing. It can be comforting to know there is someone on the court challenging the majority and keeping them on their toes.
But Sanders' convictions once led him to decide an attorney convicted of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy should be suspended, while his fellow justices wanted the lawyer disbarred. Sanders said he simply was following the rules set out by the American Bar Association even though his fellow judges felt it was justified to go outside them. It's this kind of maverick attitude that has hurt Sanders in this election.
It also sends up a flare when his endorsements in the judicial community cannot rival those of his challenger, Wiggins.
Wiggins has the support of 30 prosecuting attorneys (there are only 39 counties in the Washington) as well as endorsements from U.S. attorneys, deputy prosecuting attorneys and judges from around the state.
Chushcoff comes across as a sharp, meditative candidate who likely would make a fine Supreme Court judge. What he seems to lack is the energy Wiggins brings to the campaign.
While Justice Sanders has offered an important voice on the Supreme Court for many years, a large number of people involved in the state's court system believe it's time for someone new. That sways us.
For state Supreme Court Position 6, we recommend Charlie Wiggins.
The Supreme Court race for Position 1 is more straightforward.
Justice Jim Johnson has been a judge on the Supreme Court for six years and is known for his analytical approach. He is a staunch supporter of individual rights, especially when it comes to property disputes. He has the support of law enforcement officers and four of the other State Supreme Court justices. He also has the endorsement of State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
His challenger, Stan Rumbaugh, is a highly respected, hard-working attorney who is very involved in the Tacoma community. He says Johnson is in too tight with certain special interest groups, such as the insurance industry, and questions his ability to judge cases fairly that involve those special interests.
We disagree. Johnson is able to justify his decisions based on the state constitution and his judicial beliefs.
When Johnson first ran for the state Supreme Court, he had no judicial experience -- just like Rumbaugh.
Now, however, he has that experience and that's where he has the edge.
For the State Supreme Court Position 1, we recommend Jim Johnson.
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