Political Buzz

Talking WA politics.

NOTICE: Political Buzz has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Political Buzz.
Visit the new section.

Tag: Supreme Court

Dec.
15th

Washington Supreme Court gives JZ Knight a victory in her challenge of Yelm development

The case involved proposed subdivisions in Yelm next door to JZ Knight’s 80-acres estate. Knight, who holds what are known in state law as senior water rights, argued the city of Yelm could invade her rights in order to supply water to the new houses.

The court, in a 7-2 vote, agreed with her and against the city.

The case is big in property rights and water rights circles. But the interest grows beyond those areas because of the plaintiff. In his story on the case in May, The News Tribune’s Sean Robinson described her like this: “Knight is a wealthy New Age guru, spiritual adviser to stars, channeler (she claims) of a 35,000-year-old entity, world-famous founder of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. She wields mystic power, some followers say.”

JZ Knight (Steve Bloom photo, 2009)

The decision ends, for now, a four-year legal battle over a proposal to build 568 houses – a 20 percent growth in Yelm’s housing stock.

Here is Justice Charlie Wiggins’ summary of the 7-2 decision that tops the majority opinion released this morning.

“In 2007, five developers filed applications with the city of Yelm (City) for preliminary plat approval of proposed subdivisions. The only developer still party to this action, TTPH 3-8 LLC (Tahoma Terra), sought approval to develop 32 acres into residential lots.

“After a hearing examiner granted Tahoma Terra preliminary plat approval, JZ Knight, a nearby property owner and senior water rights holder, appealed to the Yelm City Council (City Council), arguing the hearing examiner’s conditional approval of the plats erroneously allowed the developers and the City to delay showing adequate water provisions for the subdivision until the building permit stage. The City Council affirmed the preliminary plat approvals, and Knight filed an action in Thurston County Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), chapter 36.70C RCW. This court must decide whether Knight had standing to bring the LUPA action.

“We hold that Knight established that the land use decision is likely to prejudice her water rights and satisfies the statutory standing requirement. We reverse the Court of Appeals.”

Here is Sean Robinson’s story on the case.

And here is Justice James Johnson’s dissenting opinion.

Here’s the entire decision released this morning …. Read more »

Oct.
25th

Un-endorsed: Newspaper yanks nod to Sanders after remarks about black prison rates

The Seattle Times yesterday pulled the unusual move of un-endorsing a candidate — in this case, incumbent Justice Richard Sanders.

The move comes after Sanders and Justice Jim Johnson made comments about African American incarceration rates that offended fellow attendees of a recent court meeting.

The Times has now thrown its support behind Sanders’ challenger, Charlie Wiggins.

Here’s the Times’ unendorsement:

STATE Supreme Court justices Richard Sanders and James Johnson inflamed racial tensions with their remarks that African Americans are overrepresented in the state prison system because they commit more crimes.

How disappointing these two legal minds were unable to offer more thoughtful, nuanced views about racial disparities in the criminal-justice system.
Read more »

June
9th

Tacoma trial lawyer Stan Rumbaugh wants to take on Justice Johnson

A Pierce County trial lawyer, Stan Rumbaugh, says he is filing to run for the state Supreme Court against conservative, one-term Justice James Johnson.

Rumbaugh, who filed late Tuesday, put out a news release that flatly accused Johnson of siding with corporations, insurers and the state builders’ lobby. Johnson’s campaign responded almost as caustically, saying Rumbaugh has never done appellate work and is “unqualified” for the Supreme Court.

This developing challenge to Johnson was one of the few surprises on Tuesday, the second day of candidate filing week in Washington’s 2010 election cycle.

Read full post.

April
28th

Supreme Court has tough questions on initiative secrecy case

From Les Blumenthal in our D.C. bureau:

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court justices from the left and the right seemed downright skeptical Wednesday as a lawyer for religious conservatives argued Washington state had no right to release the names of the 138,000 residents who signed ballot petitions to overturn a same-sex domestic partnership law.

Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed the arguments as “touchy feely” and said, “Democracy requires a certain amount of civic courage.”

James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for Protect Marriage Washington, argued that those who signed the petition for Referendum 71 faced harassment and intimidation from gay rights groups if

Read more »

April
20th

McKenna, Reed hopeful in R-71 signatures case

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments next week in Washington’s Referendum 71 case, deciding whether petition signers’ names are subject to public disclosure as a simple matter of public record.

The Supreme Court has never weighed in on the question, Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna says. He told reporters in Olympia on Monday he’s already been through some practice sessions with his staff in Olympia, and he’s hopeful of prevailing on the argument that signing a petition is more akin to an act of legislation than to voting, which is secret.

Read full post.

March
10th

Jim Johnson will seek second term on Washington state Supreme Court

Jim Johnson won a seat on the state Supreme Court in 2004 on his second run for the high court. He announced today he will run for another six-year term.

Johnson is one of the court’s conservatives. He was in private legal practice when he ran for the court but had been an assistant attorney general for 20 years. He handled legal issues and litigation for Fish and Wildlife and the Secretary of State.

The Seattle native attended Harvard University and received his law degree from the University of Washington.

Here’s the announcement: Read more »

Sep.
21st

Boy Scouts’ Camp Kilworth: When a deed is, indeed, a deed

As the TNT’s Steve Maynard reported last week, the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to decline an appeal by the Pacific Harbors Council effectively means the sale of Camp Kilworth to the City of Federal Way has been scotched.
ScoutSalute
But the high court’s action (or in this case, inaction) may also have broader implications:  Kilworth is among at least two dozen properties across the nation that have become battlegrounds in recent years between the Boy Scouts and well-meaning property donors, who have come to believe the BSA’s handling of their gifts have fallen far short of Scout’s Honor.

A little background on the Kilworth case:  In 2006, after initially negotiating with developers, the Tacoma-based Pacific Harbors Council ultimately agreed to sell the camp for $3 million to the city, which had planned to preserve Kilworth as a park.

Scouting officials had said urban encroachment and land erosion made Kilworth less desirable for scouting programs. They also said they intended to use at least some proceeds from the camp sale to cover costs for updating other council properties. Meanwhile, the city wanted to save the camp property – one of south King County’s last large undeveloped tracts on Puget Sound – as open space.

To most observers, the pending sale sounded like a win-win. There was just one catch: The property deed.
Read more »