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The Times recommends:
Judge Bruce Hilyer for state Supreme Court

June 20, 2012 KING County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer is our choice for Washington Supreme Court, Position 9, the seat being vacated by Justice Tom Chambers.

Hilyer, 61, has been a prosecutor and a judge. It is not necessary that justices have previous judicial experience six of the nine did not but it helps.

Having had to follow the Supreme Court's rulings, Hilyer wants the court to write "clean, crisp rules," but not to overreach.

As an example of what he wants to avoid, he cites the ruling in Andress, a 2002 felony-murder case that required the retrying of scores of convicted murderers. Sanders signed that ruling and McCloud defends it. In pointing to its unintended consequences, Hilyer shows respect for the other branches of government and the law's practical effects.

The court's one open seat has attracted three other qualified candidates:

Richard Sanders, 67, was on the high court from 1995 through 2010. More than any justice, the libertarian Sanders favored the individual over government. In many cases property rights, public disclosure we agreed with him. But he is opinionated, sometimes indecorous, and the voters rejected him in 2010 in favor of Charles Wiggins. Sanders could serve only one full six-year term before hitting retirement age at 75.

Sheryl McCloud, 56, is a successful appellate attorney with much experience with the high court but with none as a judge. She is similar to Sanders in one respect: She is willing to follow a legal argument where it goes and live with the consequences.

Attorney John Ladenburg, 63, has been Pierce County prosecutor, executive and chairman of the Sound Transit board, but never a judge. A Democrat, he ran in 2008 against Attorney General Rob McKenna, and earlier this year was considering another run for that job. Now he says he is running for the Washington Supreme Court "because I like being where the action is."

Hilyer is the best choice among this field for Supreme Court.

The Times recommends:
Gonzalez and Owens for state Supreme Court

July 6, 2012 INCUMBENT justices Steve Gonzalez and Susan Owens should be re-elected to the Washington Supreme Court.

Gonzalez is new on the court. He was appointed in January by Gov. Chris Gregoire to replace Justice Gerry Alexander, who had reached the mandatory retirement age, 75. Gonzalez had been a judge on King County Superior Court for 10 years, and is rated highly by several bar associations.

Gonzalez's big ruling has been whether Initiative 1183 to privatize liquor should be allowed to stand. We thought this was a case over quibbles and are happy that Gonzalez agreed with us. The lawsuit claimed I-1183 used the word "tax" when it should have said "fee," and that it wrongly contained two unrelated subjects, liquor and taxes.

Gonzalez wrote a common-sense ruling that liquor and taxes have been related for a long time, and that whether a thing is called a "tax" or a "fee" is not as important as whether it is described clearly to voters, which it was.

The ruling came out May 31, the day before private sales began, and on the tax issue was 5-to-4. If it had gone the other way, the result would have been chaos and a disenfranchised electorate.

Owens was one of four others who signed on to Gonzalez's opinion in the liquor case. In her 12 years on the Washington Supreme Court, she has ruled in cases in which we agreed and ones in which we disagreed. Like Gonzalez, she has deep support in the legal community.

Owens has two challengers: Douglas McQuaid, a sole practitioner in Seattle, and Scott Stafne, who has a law office in Arlington. Neither has been attending candidate interviews and, the last we checked, neither had raised a nickel, which says something about how seriously they take a statewide campaign for the high court. Owens has raised $41,525.

Gonzalez's challenger is Bruce Danielson of Kitsap County, who ran for judge in 2008 and prosecutor in 2010, and lost both times. He filed for the Washington Supreme Court at the last minute and, last we checked, he had not raised any money either. Gonzalez has raised $215,880.

Gonzalez's race will be settled in the primary and Owens' will, too, if she gets more than 50 percent of the vote. Both are serious candidates, but voters would be better served if they also had serious opponents.

The Times recommends:
For King County Superior Court
Parisien, North, Berns, O'Donnell and Ramseyer

July 25, 2012 FOR King County Superior Court there are three contests to fill judicial vacancies and two challenges to incumbents. Our choice among these is mostly about where they are from, what they have done and what their peers think of them. In choosing our favorites, we have aimed for a mix of backgrounds.

In Position 42, Judge Christopher Washington is rated lowest among 52 judges in this year's survey of the King County Bar Association. The low marks were mostly from prosecutors. One of several cases that inflamed them was in 2008, when two teenagers beat up Seattle Police Officer Jason McKissack, one of them kicking him in the head, leaving him with a brain injury. Washington sentenced the kicker, age 17, to 30 days served, though prosecutors asked for a longer sentence.

The prosecutors have a point. Washington has drawn three qualified challengers, Sue Parisien, Marianne Jones and David Ruzumna. Our choice is Parisien, an attorney here for Zurich Insurance Group. Parisien litigated civil cases for 12 years for state attorneys general Chris Gregoire and Rob McKenna. She is tough-minded and will not be an easy judge.

For Position 30, Judge Doug North is challenged by Kimberly Allen, a city councilwoman in Redmond. She argues that North allowed rape victims to be verbally abused in the trials of Sankarandi Skanda and Salvador Cruz, defendants who acted as their own lawyers. In the Cruz case, a witness fled to the courthouse roof and threatened to jump off. North says he controlled the defendants as much as he could, and if he had done any more the convictions would have been reversed on appeal. (Cruz was convicted and sentenced by North to 53 years; Skanda killed himself before the trial was over.)

The problem was not with North, but with the law. North has been unable to work for several months because of illness, but he expects to recover. We wish him the best and offer our endorsement.

For Position 25, prosecutor Roger Davidheiser, court commissioner Eric Schmidt and civil litigator Elizabeth Berns are running to replace Judge Jim Doerty. Our choice is Berns, despite a goofy rating by the King County Bar Association that she is "not qualified." Berns has two decades of private practice experience, and a calm, clear and direct manner. She has three years' experience as a judge pro tem in District Court and as a commissioner pro tem in Superior Court. She has the support of Judge Doerty and two justices of the Washington Supreme Court.

For Position 29, to replace Judge Sharon Armstrong, the bar association rated public defender Hong Tran "not qualified," she protested, and the association agreed to do it over. They rated her opponent, senior deputy prosecutor Sean O'Donnell, "well qualified." Both appear to be qualified.

Our choice is O'Donnell, who was one of the five prosecutors in the Gary Ridgway case. Besides being a thoughtful, experienced prosecutor, he is a trainer for the National Association of Attorneys General, an adjunct faculty member at the Seattle University School of Law and heads the Washington State Bar Association's legislative committee.

For Position 46, to replace Judge Suzanne Barnett, attorney Judy Ramseyer faces senior deputy prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff. Of these two strong candidates, we favor Ramseyer for her mix of experience. She was law clerk to renowned federal judge Bill Dwyer. Upon earning her law degree, she practiced at the Seattle law firms Heller Ehrman and K&L Gates. She has experience in at-risk youth, family law, commercial law, civil rights and class actions.

Ramseyer was guardian ad litem of Benjamin J. Harris, who had confessed to a murder he didn't do and was let go after coming within 12 days of execution. She has decades of courtroom experience and has the bearing of a Superior Court judge., P.O. Box 1460, Silverdale, WA  98383
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