PubliCola No-Brainer Endorsement #31: Charlie Wiggins

By PublicolaPicks October 7, 2010

Last week, we published 27 “No-Brainer” endorsements for the November 2 election. We realized, though, that before we study up and make the rest of our endorsements, there are still a few obvious picks on the ballot. About five more to be exact.

(This week, we've added 34th District state House candidate Joe Fitzgibbon, “Yes” on R-52 , and “Yes” on King County Prop. 1 to our No-Brainer list.)

Here’s the the fourth addition, with a final No-Brainer queued up from tomorrow.

State Supreme Court, Position 6: PubliCola Picks Charlie Wiggins

Charlie Wiggins, a Bainbridge Island attorney who received the highest possible ratings from three bar associations and the Seattle/King County Municipal League, is the obvious choice to unseat the state Supreme Court's most hard-line right-wing member, Richard Sanders.

Sanders likes to point out his libertarian record---for marijuana use, for gun rights, and for strict penalties against officials who violate public disclosure laws. But behind a handful of votes that hold some appeal too liberals are some standard-issue partisan positions that contradict his claim to be a champion of personal freedom.

Over the years, Sanders has written opinions holding that a 13-year-old girl who had sex with a 26-year-old teacher "seduced" him; that a stalker was merely trying to "woo the object of his affection"; that "impact fees" that pay for things like road maintenance and transit should not be allowed; and that Seattle City Light should not reward ratepayers who work to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Famously, he also signed off on an opinion supporting the court’s decision to uphold the anti-gay-rights Defense of Marriage Act, but argued that the court didn’t go far enough to establish that marriage could only be between a man and a woman.

Those opinions (most of them dissents) alone would be enough for us to oppose Sanders. But the controversial justice has also frequently overstepped the bounds of judicial impartiality.In 1996, for example, Sanders spoke at an anti-choice rally in Olympia, saying that nothing was more “more fundamental in our legal system than the preservation and protection of innocent human life.” (He was charged with, and ultimately cleared of, judicial misconduct.)

In 2006, he was admonished by a Supreme Court panel for visiting violent sexual offenders on McNeil Island and discussing cases pending before the court. And in 2008, Sanders stood up during a formal dinner held by the conservative Federalist Society and shouted “tyrant!” during a speech by former US attorney general Michael Mukasey.

Unlike Wiggins, who wants to strengthen judicial ethics rules governing campaign contributions (drafting a rule that would require judges from ruling on cases involving parties that spent heavily to get them elected), Sanders has been hostile to campaign finance reform. No wonder: In 2008, he accepted more than $35,000 in contributions from the Building Industry Association of Washington, the state’s biggest builders’ PAC; subsequently, Sanders ruled for the BIAW’s position in 25 out of 28 BIAW cases.

Wiggins, an experienced appellate attorney, has served on the court of appeals in Tacoma and on two county superior courts. He has received ratings of “exceptionally well qualified” or “outstanding” from numerous bar associations and election-ranking groups. His long list of endorsements includes 30 prosecutors, six newspapers, the Law Enforcement Administrators of Washington (Sheriffs and Police Chiefs), Washington Conservation Voters, numerous Democratic groups, Equal Rights Washingoton, and the Washington State Labor Council.

PubliCola thinks Wiggins will offer a calm, professional contrast to Sanders’ often half-baked, doctrinaire legal reasoning.

PubliCola picks Charlie Wiggins.

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