This Washington

Two Cases Stand Between Justice Sanders and the People's Vote

By Erica C. Barnett January 16, 2012

Since he was officially bounced from office back in 2010, former state supreme court justice Richard Sanders has continued to sit on the court as a pro tem judge---a position to which his ex-colleagues appointed him that allows him to vote on cases on which he heard arguments and participated in deliberations. When Sanders lost his bid for reelection to Charlie Wiggins in November 2010, nearly 70 cases fit the bill, including a murder conviction that was overturned thanks to Sanders' vote and a First Amendment case about whether a Monroe woman's horn honking outside her neighbor's house constitutes protected speech.

Today, nearly a year and a half later, those cases have been whittled down to two; once the court makes a ruling on those, Sanders will have to step aside.

The two outstanding cases are:

• A technical challenge to a firearms sentence by jewel thief Joshua D. Scott, on the grounds that the state submitted the wrong forms to the jury that convicted Scott---deadly weapon special verdict forms, as opposed to firearm enhancement special forms. The firearm enhancement---basically, a finding that Scott's crime was worse because it involved a gun---added two consecutive 60-month sentences and one 36-month sentence to Scott's already lengthy imprisonment.

• A case involving a five-vehicle crash in 2009, in which a Snohomish County Public Transportation (Community Transit) sought to enforce an indemnification clause against a subcontractor, First Transit, which was operating one of the buses involved in the accident.

Sanders has not returned a call for comment on his two outstanding cases.

And even if he does wrap up his remaining cases and leave the court, Sanders may not be gone for good. As we noted last week, the controversial libertarian judge (he voted to uphold a 1998 state law that bans gay marriage, among other contentious votes) may run again: This time, for the open seat being vacated by Justice Tom Chambers.
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