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.
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.