Archived Version: August 7, 2012

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Wenatchee World




Primary decides for Supreme Court

July 7, 2012 — There is at least one statewide race that will be decided in the Aug. 7 primary, and it deserves your attention. Voters will choose a justice for the state Supreme Court, which surely has to rank as one of the most important and far-reaching decisions put before the state’s voters in the first week of August.

It is not the custom of this page to endorse candidates, but for the purpose of voter education it would be worthwhile to relay our experience and impressions of Justice Steven Gonzalez. Voters will choose between the incumbent Gonzalez and his sole opponent, Kitsap County attorney Bruce C. Danielson. Under Washington law, if one candidate in a judicial race receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote, it is decided. In this race that will surely happen, which makes its summer-cloaked obscurity unfortunate, considering we will decide who fills one of the state’s highest and most consequential offices.

Gonzalez was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Chris Gregoire in January, replacing the retiring Justice Gerry Alexander. He came to the court after serving 10 years as a judge of the King County Superior Court. Prior to that, Gonzalez was an assistant United States attorney and part of the team that prosecuted Ahmed Ressam, the so-called Millenial Bomber who plotted to attack Los Angeles International Airport. He has served as a national instructor on terrorism prosecution. He is a California native, graduate of the University of California and Berkeley School of Law, studied in Japan and China, and speaks Japanese, Chinese and Spanish.

Gonzalez came for an interview in April, answering a wide range of questions with patience, intelligence and obvious dedication to the law. In the last question, he was asked how it felt to have reporters ask him about being the “first Latino on the state Supreme Court.” He was proud of his heritage, he said, but was thinking how refreshing it was to have an interview with no question about ethnicity. “I take this job seriously,” he said.

We have had no contact with his opponent Danielson, who has raised and spent no money on his campaign. He has run unsuccessfully for local office three times, but has no judicial experience or bar endorsements and lists little that could be considered a qualification. Gonzalez is rated exceptionally qualified by state and local bar associations, is endorsed by every fellow Supreme Court justice, the Association of Washington Business, state Labor Council, gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee and many others of varied background.

There is no printed voter’s guide for the primary election. More information on the candidates can be found on the secretary of state’s website, at

We recommend that you study the material, weigh their qualifications and choose Steven Gonzalez for state Supreme Court.

This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.

Primary decides for Supreme Court

August 3, 2012 — Voters make few choices more consequential than naming a justice to the Washington Supreme Court. The court oversees a third of state government and decides whether the remaining two-thirds work within the boundaries of law.

As important as it is, the choice is too often seen as a secondary, to be casually made or ignored. In this primary week, with ballots due Tuesday, that would be a mistake. There are three Supreme Court seats on the primary ballot. Two are held by incumbents — Justices Steven Gonzalez and Susan Owens — facing inactive or unqualified challengers. Should either receive a majority in the primary, the election will be decided. We have already recommended Gonzalez be retained.

The third seat is Position 9, being vacated by retiring Justice Tom Chambers. It has drawn four energetic and impressive candidates. Each has a distinct point of view and qualities to recommend them. Unless one receives a majority of Tuesday’s vote, two will move on to the general election. Following reader requests for more information on the race, we spoke with the candidates this week. Voters can find more information at, a video voter’s guide at, and a side-by-side candidates’ forum at

Bruce Hilyer has served 12 years as a King County Superior Court judge, after working in private practice and as a deputy prosecutor. He combines the wide experience of a trial court judge with an air of competence and pragmatism. He urges justices to consider not only the law but the consequences of their decisions. Rulings too wide can bring unforeseen burdens on society and its government, he said. Hilyer comes widely recommended by the judiciary and legal community in King County, and in Chelan County as well.

John Ladenburg, a Leavenworth native, is best known for his long service as Pierce County prosecutor, Pierce County executive and chairman of Sound Transit. He says his deep experience in civil and criminal justice and the machinery of government give him insight no candidate has. He too says justices must know how their decisions affect others. His statements have a political edge to them, evidence of a career as an elected official. He notes that he has wide support from prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys, across the state and political spectrum.

Sheryl Gordon McCloud is a successful Seattle appellate attorney who has argued hundreds of cases before the Washington Supreme Court, and federal appeals courts. Her entire career has been dedicated to protecting constitutional rights, she said, and that will not change. She said she has keen insight into the intricacies of legal thought from her years of analysis and argument that would serve her well as a justice. Her skill and principle is impressive in conversation. Political ideology is irrelevant, she says. She insists she will protect the rights of the citizenry, come what may.

Richard Sanders was 15 years a Supreme Court justice before narrowly losing a re-election bid in 2010. He is known as an inflexible advocate for the rights of the individual, and he has lost none of the passion that made him conspicuous during his judicial career. His says his role, and the role of government, is to protect the rights of citizens. He will not waiver or compromise or worry about whom his opinions upset. The temperament that made him controversial is still there. His points of view are often admirable, but he can sound resentful, impatient, even angry.

The choice is difficult, but the preponderance of evidence leads us to favor Hilyer. His practical experience on the bench, his demeanor, standout ratings among colleagues, his sensitivity to the real-world effects of judicial decisions, all indicate he will be an effective justice of the Supreme Court.

This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner., P.O. Box 1460, Silverdale, WA  98383
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