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A wake-up call on the importance of state Supreme Court races

By Justice Richard B. Sanders
from WA State Farm Bureau

June 2006

I would hope those who "get up with the cows" are early risers by nature and hardly need a wake up call from a Supreme Court Justice; however, this is one appointment with the Supreme Court you don’t want to miss.

I have long believed that decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court have a greater impact on the lives and fortunes of farmers than either the legislative or executive branch of government.

Virtually every initiative and referendum is reviewed, perhaps multiple times, before the state Supreme Court.

We are a final authority on all state law questions, including the important rights an individual has to own and use his property, conduct his business, and be free from unlawful taxation. Many of our decisions relate to the legal rights enjoyed by farm families, and families in general.

Of special interest to farmers, for example, is Farm Bureau’s proposed Supreme Court rule change which would prohibit the use of attorney trust account interest to lobby the Legislature.

Every farmer, as well as every resident of this state, has the right to expect that every judge in our judicial system will impartially uphold their legal rights without compromise and without deference to the opposing party, even if that happens to be the government.

This requires men and women who don the robes be competent and dedicated to the principles of a free society as they are reflected in our laws, especially the Washington State Constitution, a document drafted at a time when about 80 percent of the people of this state were engaged in agriculture.

So what can you do about this?

Everything. Every judge on our Washington State Supreme Court is elected to a six year term, and every two years three positions are subject to election statewide. It is absolutely imperative that you get involved in these elections and do everything you can to help the best candidate win.

This year is especially important: The election rules have changed.

The Legislature (over my objections) has capped contributions by a couple to Supreme Court candidates at $2,800 before and another $2,800 after the primary election.

This means that individual campaigns can no longer rely upon a few big contributors. It also means that there is a tremendous incentive for various special interest groups to influence judicial elections through independent expenditures for which candidates bear no responsibility.

On April 29, 2006, the Seattle Post Intelligencer ran this headline: "New PAC to Back Judges on the Left"

According to the article, the PAC supporters include former Gov. Gary Locke, King County Executive Ron Sims, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Washington Conservation Voters, Washington State Labor Council, Service Employees International Union, the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, and Equal Rights Washington.

This political action committee (FairPAC) has the financial resources to potentially shape the future of the state Supreme Court.

Certainly these citizen groups have every right to organize and campaign.

But farmers also have a vital interest in seeing that the judiciary protect their legal rights.

So here is my wake up call to the farmers of this state: Get active, get involved in the upcoming judicial election for the State Supreme Court.

The decision of who sits on the court is just too important to farmers to allow it to be made without their vigorous and active participation.

Contribute generously to the candidate of your choice. Tell your family, friends, and neighbors why they should be involved too.

Our court must be willing to protect the rights of every single Washingtonian, even farmers.

Good morning, this is your wake up call.

Justice Richard B. Sanders, a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, was elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 1995. A prolific writer, he often quotes his favorite passage from the Washington State Constitution that governments "are established to protect and maintain individual rights."



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