WA State Supreme Court Candidates face off in debate.
By Larry Killion, Citizen Journalist
The Freedom Foundation’s “Theodore L Stiles Center for Liberty” presented a Forum for the Candidates running for the Washington State Supreme Court at 7PM, July 10th 2012. A co-sponsor for the event was Washington Coalition for Open Government in cooperation with TVW and Tacoma News Tribune. The setting was the beautiful grounds of Lakewold Gardens at 12317 Gravely Lake Drive in Lakewood.
Michael J. Reitz introduced the four candidates and gave them a few minutes for an opening statement and words of introduction.
Richard Sanders began by stating his qualifications and experience as a former Supreme Court Justice endorsed by the retiring Justice from this opening. Sanders heard over 600 cases from the Washington Supreme Court Bench. He has many conservative endorsements. He emphasized the need for the court to defend the rights of the individual citizen rather than putting the government powers in priority. He pointed out the partisan positions of career politicians trying to break into the judicial branch of government now.
Sheryl McCloud spoke of her 25 years of experience arguing for constitutional rights and promised to maintain a track record favoring the constitution. She defended the 2nd amendment and spoke against the death penalty. She is endorsed by King County and Pierce County Bar Associations, Women’s Rights Groups and the NAACP. She stressed her skills at assessing strengths and weaknesses.
John Ladenburg called himself an outsider. He insisted that the judicial system needs to be more open and he wanted to change it from a “good old boys” club to something more transparent. He is endorsed by the Tacoma News Tribune. He spoke of his 12 years of experience as a defense lawyer and 14 years of experience as a prosecuting attorney. He felt that he has the broadest range of experience of all the candidates having served as a criminal defense lawyer, Pierce County prosecutor, Tacoma City Councilman, and Pierce County Executive.
Bruce Hilyer told of his 12 years of experience on the King County Superior Court as a judge with the support from 145 other judges on the bench. He claimed the highest ratings as a non-partisan candidate endorsed by labor unions, teachers and police. He insisted that he had no ax to grind and that he desired to see the judicial branch of our government become more modern and efficient in it’s administrative activities.
Here are some of the questions asked of the candidates and their answers.
What case has the court ruled on that you would have ruled differently?
Sanders- The people voted down the Mariners Tax but the court passed it anyway. I would not have done that.
McCloud- The court ruled against public access to trials. I would not have.
Ladenburg- The court’s ruling on the Anderson Case caused hundreds of cases to be retried. I would not have done that.
Hilyer- said he agreed with what Ladenburg said about the Anderson Case.
How would you make decisions on cases being heard?
McCloud- I would use the constitution for guidance.
Ladenburg- I would take into consideration the possible unintended consequences of it.
Hilyer- I would pay attention to the specific details and not decide with a broad brush.
Sanders- I agree with McCloud that the rule of law is the important thing.
Name the US Supreme Court Justice that you admire the most.
Hilyer- I go way back to John Marshall.
Sander- George Southerland in the 30’s.
McCloud- I’m surprised John chose Kennedy but he is my choice too because he is a constitutionalist.
Discuss campaign contributions and the legislator ability to use them.
Hilyer- We shouldn’t turn Washington into something like Texas where big money runs everything.
Sanders-The State constitution gives this right and we should go by it or change the law.
McCloud- This is an evolving issue. The US Supreme court has not overturned it or justified it. It is a 1st amendment issue.
Ladenburg- We must be careful about Barons buying up everything in politics.
31A gives more access to court records. Do your favor or not?
Sanders- We can lawfully seal records but it should be the exception not the rule.
McCloud- There must be a balance between an open court and the right to privacy.
Ladenburg- We need more openness.
Hilyer- 31A is OK as it is.
Discuss the Initiative and Referendum rights of the people.
McCloud- The Constitution gives this right. I’m for it.
Ladenburg- The court should give their advice before the process can start.
Hilyer- No opinion, but agree somewhat with Ladenburg.
Sanders- Courts are to decide issues on individual rights and defend them. There should be no wasting time giving advice on issues that may not make it to the ballot.
Should cameras be in the courtroom?
What do you want to accomplish by your term on the bench?
Hilyer- Bring the system up to date with computerized paperless technology and replace the 30 year old paper system.
Sanders- Be impartial and defend the constitutional rights of the individual against government abuse.
McCloud- I want people to be proud of their court decisions whether they agree or disagree with them.
Ladenburg- Open up the court and bring it back to the people.
What is the most important judicial issue today?
Sanders- The court must be unbiased and impartial. Case law should not trump the constitution.
McCloud- The court must be independent and decide on the rule of law not popular opinion.
Ladenburg- The court needs to get more organized.
Hilyer- Judicial independence, separation of powers and individual rights should not trump the “common good.”