Inside Opinion

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Tag: Washington State Supreme Court


Our tortured pick for state Supreme Court: Richard Sanders

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

We would have preferred a different choice for the state Supreme Court.

Four candidates entered the race for the seat Justice Tom Chambers is leaving. Either of the two eliminated in the primary – former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg and Judge Bruce Hilyer of King County – would have been better than the two who wound up in November’s runoff.

Not that we don’t like Richard Sanders and Sheryl Gordon McCloud. Each is highly intelligent and devoted to the law. It comes down to the role of the judiciary. Either McCloud or Sanders would bring a settled ideological agenda to the cases that reach the high court.

Sanders is a doctrinaire libertarian. McCloud is what used to be called a flaming liberal. Passionate political beliefs keep the fires of democracy burning, but good court decisions aren’t born in furnaces. Sanders and McCloud both appear likely to equate their personal philosophies with constitutional dictates.
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Sanders for Supreme Court, Sussman for District Court

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Richard B. Sanders is one of a kind on a court that often doesn’t see matters his way. We like that about him, and we like that about the state Supreme Court.

Sanders is easily the most controversial justice of the state’s nine.

He’s earned the ire of police and prosecutors for his unyielding defense of defendants’ rights. He did time in the national spotlight a couple of years back for yelling “Tyrant!” at former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

He’s also skirted the boundaries of good sense, if not judicial ethics, by chatting up sex offenders at the McNeil Island sex predator center and by not recusing himself from a court decision that posed a possible conflict of interest.

But here’s the rub: Besides being a thorough supporter of open government, Sanders is also the court’s biggest champion of individual rights. He forces the court to deal with basic constitutional issues. Having his voice in the mix as decisions are made ensures stronger rulings, whether his opinion carries the day or not.

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Internet filtering at public libraries walks a fine line

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Legality should not be confused with good public policy. Case in point: The seal of constitutionality the state Supreme Court granted a library district’s overzealous Internet filter on Thursday.

In a 6-3 decision, the court blessed the five-county North Central Regional Library District’s blanket use of Internet filters on library computers. The majority ruled that filtering adult patrons’ Internet access is not a violation of the state constitution’s free speech protections.

The court’s analysis may well be correct. No less than the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that libraries have a legitimate interest in filtering Internet content to protect minors from pornography. Under federal law, libraries are required to take such steps to receive federal assistance.

But the federal law – and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld it – was predicated on the idea that libraries could disable filters for adult patrons upon request.

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How not to manage a problem prisoner

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

State prison officials have handed one of their biggest troublemakers a major legal victory – and possibly a heap of taxpayers’ money as well.

On Thursday, a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled that the state Department of Corrections must pay convicted arsonist Allan Parmelee’s attorney fees.

The case stems from a July 2005 letter Parmelee wrote to then-prison secretary Harold Clarke. Parmelee complained about the treatment of prisoners at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.

Parmelee wrote that he had discovered what was causing all the tension at the prison: “Having a man-hater lesbian as a superintendent is like throwing gas on (an) already smoldering fire.”

Offensive? Yes, but no more so than how prison officials responded. They cited Parmelee for violating an arcane 1869 criminal libel law and gave him 10 days in isolation.

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