Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Richard Sanders Best Choice for Supreme Court

When I filled out my mail-in ballot today, I voted for Richard Sanders for the Washington State Supreme Court.  It wasn’t a hard decision.  I have always like him, even back when I was a prosecutor. Some of the other justices seem like they are inclined to pretty much rubber stamp every decision made by our State or local governments.  Sanders isn’t above taking the government to task.  I remember years ago, when I was handling a water rights case against the Department of Ecology, I read an earlier opinion of his calling the Department’s failure to follow its own timelines “scandalous”.  The opinion was a dissenting opinion, but I was still able to quote it to the administrative law judge to help push Ecology along.  I don’t believe that Sanders’ opponent, Charles Wiggins, is such a bad guy.  But I definitely prefer Sanders, and think that many of Wiggins’ criticisms of Sanders are unfair.

I think the Seattle-Times put it best this morning with their headline: “WA Supreme Court Race Puts Sanders on Defense”.   Richard Sanders IS on the defensive, but not from the Seattle-Times, which endorsed him.  Most other major newspapers of Washington have endorsed him too.  Rather, Sanders’ biggest critics are elected prosecutors and superior court judges, most of whom are supporting his opponent.  But the Seattle-Times didn’t mention one increasingly outspoken critic of Sanders: the editors of the Seattle paper The Stranger.  The biggest critic is one assistant editor, named Eli Sanders, oddly enough.  The Stranger? You may not have heard of it if you live in Eastern Washington.  And you may not have heard of it if you live in Western Washington either.  Its circulation is mainly in Seattle, but as we know from past gubernatorial races, Seattle has a lot of votes.  And The Stranger seems to be going of their way to discredit Sanders in every way possible.  The Stranger has taken to digging up past articles he wrote years ago as a student of UW.  The Stranger has also been digging through his old court files from his divorce in 1969, and the paper quotes a named individual that claims that Justice Sanders introduced two different women as his “girlfriend”.   Like I said, they are really going after him.  This article, which is here, was accurately characterized as a “hatchet job” by Seattle blogger Barry Pump.  As to digging up Sander’s past student articles from the 1960’s, Barry Pump writes that he already wishes to take back opinion pieces he wrote as a student, and that was just 4 or 5 years ago.  The funny thing, in my opinion, is that next to this article, The Stranger has racy personal ads, and also an advertisement inviting readers to click a banner ad where they can make money by starring in pornographic movies.  The editors of The Stranger are mostly irked at Sanders for characterizing himself as a champion of freedom when he voted on the court not to recognize the right of gay marriage.  The case was Anderson v. King County, a decision that I don’t agree with either, but that hasn’t prevented me from seeing the overall value of having Sanders on the Supreme Court.  It is hard to really pigeon-hole Sanders supporters.  When I was an elected prosecutor, I supported the guy, but I was one of the few.  I know a lot of deputy prosecutors that support him too individually.  The newspapers stories always tout the opposition of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, but that group just speaks as a voice of the 39 elected prosecutors of Washington.

What do you think?  Is Sanders the way to go?  Will The Stranger be able to sway voters?

Judge Speaks out on Prosecutor Race: Dennis Morgan versus Mike Sandona

Retired Ferry County Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson has endorsed Dennis Morgan over the incumbant prosecutor Michael Sandona in Ferry County.   Judge Kristianson served as a judge in Ferry County for over twenty years.  Mike Sandona and Dennis Morgan are both running for the position of Ferry County Prosecuting Attorney.  The race will be decided in the November election. For a prior post on the Sandona / Morgan race, see here

Charleen Groomes and Rae Jean Kelley Run for Okanogan County Clerk

I noticed this summer that there was a three-way Clerk’s race this summer in Okanogan County:   Charleen Groomes, Cindy Gagne, and Rae Jean Kelley.   Normally clerk’s races are pretty low-key events, and often times the clerks is uncontested.  The out-going clerk, Jackie Bradley, had served in that position for 38 years.  I don’t recall her ever being contested.  (But then again I wasn’t practicing law and blogging back in the 70’s; I was learning how to read and ride a bike.)  Since I didn’t know any of the three candidates, I fired off an email to all three complaining how the current clerk had overcharged me once.  I wrote:

Dear _______,

I was wondering how you felt as a clerk candidate about certain charges to the public.  I once went to the clerks window to look at a file, and i asked for copies made.  The copies were just of an exhibit attached to a declaration.  I did not want the whole filing, the declaration itself, or the other attachments.  However, the person at the window  said if i wanted part of it, i would have to get all of it, and would have to pay to have the whole filing copied.  This didn’t seem right tome, and i was not able to find any other clerk’s office across the state that had a similar policy.  I called to complain to Jackie Bradley and she basically just said “too bad” that is our policy. Isn’t that just a waste of paper, and doesn’t that just result in an over-charge to the public[?]  (Note, that the request was not for a certified copy.)  What do you think about this?  Would you continue the same policy regarding copy costs?  I am just curious.  Thanks.

I wasn’t sure what sort of response I would get, but I received thoughtful responses from all three candidates.  Rae Jean Kelley asked around at some other Clerk’s offices and confirmed that the neighboring clerks did not charge for those unnecessary copies.  She indicated that my suggested way of handling the matter could be done, but that she would reserve the right to make the determination depending on the document copy requested.  Charlene Groomes didn’t seem to agree with the current policy either, and indicated that she would review such policies if elected.  The candidate Cindy Gagne seemed like she was the most ardent supporter of the change of these fees.  However, she was beaten in the primary.  Wanna learn more about the clerk candidate Charleen Groomes or Rae Jean Kelley?  Check out their Facebook campaign sites here and here. They both are republicans.

Laurel Siddoway Better Choice for Court of Appeals, Over Harvey Dunham

I received a letter in the mail last week from Cindy Zapotocky, Chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party.

Laurell Siddoway

The letter was addressed “Dear friends of liberty and freedom.” The letter urges me to donate money to Harvey Dunham in his challenge of incumbant judge Laurel Siddoway for Division Three of the Court of Appeals. The letter warns of Laurel Siddoway’s ties to the ACLU as if that were some sort of seditious organization. (Reading through the letter, it was clear that I got on this mailing list because I once donated money to a Republican that is supporting Harvey Dunham.) Laurel Siddoway’s ties to the ACLU seem to be what really motivates Harvey Dunham’s supporters. I saw a letter to the editor in the Spokesman-Review last week that makes this omninous warning about Siddoway:

[She] supports the American Civil Liberties Union. Voters should learn that Roger Baldwin was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and he was an original officer, along with such notables of Communist Party history as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Louis Budenz and William Z Foster. Baldwin’s continuous radical career and cooperation with Communists and anarchists and socialists is of more than 50 years duration.

This letter seemed a little goofy, but Harvey Dunham actually puts a link to this letter on his website as if it were a notable endorsement. See site. In rural eastern Washington, implying that someone was a communist because he or she is affiliated with ACLU is a time honored smear tactic. Locals did that to John Goldmark when he ran for State Legislature in the 1960s and Goldmark ended up suing his opponents for libel and winning. See source. To me, this tactic of the Harvey Dunham supporters seems really desperate.

Harvey Dunham

Also, why is Harvey Dunham implying that he is running against Siddoway because she is too liberal?  Two years ago he ran against conservative Kevin Korsmo, and I am sure career prosecutor Kevin Korsmo was not a member of the ACLU.  I just don’t think Harvey Dunham is that qualified to be a court of appeals judge.  He really hasn’t done a whole lot to set himself apart as a lawyer, and has chose not to participate in polls of the bar association members.  I have joined many Republicans in supporting conservative judges Richard Sanders and Jim Johnson but I can’t really get excited about Harvey Dunham due to his lack of credentials.   Laurel Siddoway has been rated “Well Qualified” by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.   Her website is here.

Tucker, Stevens, Bugbee Set to Debate for Spokane Prosecutor Race

The Republican Spokane Prosecutor candidates will square off tomorrow (Monday the 21st) for the first time in a debate hosted by the Republicans of Spokane County. The three Republican candidates are Steve Tucker, David Stevens, and Chris Bugbee.  It starts at 6:30 p.m. at Quality Inn Suites at I-90 and Argonne in the Spokane Valley.  See story in the blog Spin Control.  The “moderator” will be Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.  You have to wonder a little about what they were thinking in having Knezovich handle this thing.  It seems that the best moderators are the ones who do not draw attention to themselves, and rather help educate the voters about the candidates.  Ozzie Knezovich may have not endorsed any particular candidate, but he is hardly impartial.  The incumbent Steve Tucker is actually Knezovich’s lawyer, at least in the sense that Tucker is the county attorney, and his office gives legal advice to county departments.  Knezovich is also busy himself in pushing for the new jail he wants, and this project has been hampered somewhat by the fact that Steve Tucker has had a hard time filling the current jail with convicts.  Knezovich announced layoffs of 57 jail employees in Spokane last month.  See story.  Meanwhile the Spokane Police Guild has already endorsed one of Tucker’s opponents, Chris Bugbee.  The Guild, in a public statement, opined that Tucker is too inclined to settle cases, and that Bugbee is more inclined to “fight regardless of the consequences.”  The other thing about the debate is that the public who attends will want to hear about the candidates from their prospective, not necessarily from the prospective of the sheriff.  The Spin Control blog jokes with readers that at least having the Sheriff there will keep the peace.  But my guess is that the event will be pretty bland.  A better bet for excitement will be across town, as the Spokane City Council considers again an ordinance granting more powers to the local police ombudsman.  The City Council meeting is at City Hall (of course) at 6 p.m. the same night as the debate.  I have blogged in the past about the need for reform in this area.  The new proposed law before the city council would give the independent ombudsman greater authority by conducting independent investigations of police officer actions.   Lately, the ombudsman reversed his stance and is now asking the council for the right to examine allegations of police misconduct independent of the police internal investigation.  Apparently he had said last year that this was unnecessary.   Some of the same people who have been pushing for police reform are also strong critics of Steve Tucker (see this blog for example).   It looks like Tucker will get a little break Monday night, as proponents of police reform cannot be in two places at once.

Just Another Day in Court for Attorney Dennis Morgan

Dennis Morgan is running for prosecutor this year against Mike Sandona.  As I mentioned in a blog post last April, appeals work can be pretty low profile.  At least that used to be true before TVW.  TVW is the CSPAN of Washington State.  Dennis Morgan is often on TVW because he often makes the drive from Republic to Olympia to argue cases at the  State Supreme Court.  Dennis Morgan has been practicing for about 35 years, and is recognized State-wide for his legal abilities. Check him out in his most recent appearance on TVW.

If you look closely, you can see some of the Supreme Court Justices I have blogged about in the past.  Justice Richard Sanders is present, who I blogged about here.   Also, Justice Gerry Alexander is present, who I blogged about here.

The Dennis Morgan / Mike Sandona prosecutor race is set for August for the primary, and November for the general election.  Morgan’s Facebook campaign page is here.  I look forward to seeing the candidate’s night featuring Dennis Morgan and Mike Sandona.   The general election will decided the race for Ferry County Prosecutor on November 3rd, 2010.  Mike Sandona was elected to the position in November 2006 in a race against James Von Sauer and Alexander Wirt.

Supreme Court Candidate Charlie Wiggins Visits Ferry, Stevens County

On Tuesday, attorney Charles Wiggins visited Ferry and Stevens County in his bid to run for the State Supreme Court.  He is running against incumbent judge Richard Sanders.  I was invited to hear Wiggins speak, but wasn’t able to attend because of my court schedule.  I would have liked to have met him, because the Wiggins / Sanders judicial race is by far the most interesting judicial race in the State.

Wiggins is a lawyer who has spent most of his career in private practice.  He was appointed by the governor to serve as an appeals court judge, but when he ran to retain his position he was he defeated in the next election.

Supreme Court Candidate Charles Wiggins

Much of the focus of his website is critiquing Judge Sanders as being unethical.  I guess the main criticisms were 1) that Richard Sanders visited some inmates on a tour of a prison, and it turned out some of the inmates had cases pending before the court, and 2) that Richard Sanders issued a decision in a public records case that set a legal precedent for a pending case,where Sanders himself had a similar public records issue.

Sanders is pretty outspoken, and sometimes that gets him into trouble.  I first remember him irritating other judges when he spoke at an anti-abortion rally.  Usually, judges are slower to publicly address issues like that.  I remember when Sanders was running for judge in 1998, he was challenged by then Assistant Attorney General Greg Canova.  The Greg Canova campaign asserted that 38 of the 39 elected prosecutors supported him.  I actually think that number was 37, because I was an elected prosecutor then, and I did not support Canova, and I think there was one other besides me.  One of the thing that irks me about some judges, is when they fail to require that the government follow the same laws as everyone else.  Sanders often writes biting dissents criticizing such government actions.   I recall reading his dissent in Hillis v. Department of Ecology, in which he called the State’s failure to comply with permit deadlines “scandalous”.   Justice Sanders was also one of two justices to side with Ferry County on its GMA issues when we went to the Supreme Court in 2005.  Justice Sanders is often hard to predict, and if you really want to know how outspoken he is, you really need to check out a good Seattle PI story here.

Richard Sanders

The story explains how Sanders was at a Federalist Society meeting in D.C. and Sanders got tired of the U.S. Attorney General defending George Bush’s treatment of Guantánamo Bay detainees.  Sanders stood up in the audience and yelled “Tyrant! You’re a Tyrant” and then stormed out.  If you want to listen to this incident, check out it out here, and Sander’s outburst occurs at 17 minutes and 28 seconds into the video.

I mentioned in a blog post earlier this month that Justice Sanders’ Facebook fan page led all other candidates, he has almost 1300 fans.

Gonzaga Grad Kevin McCann runs for Judge in Pierce County

There is nothing to make a lawyer feel like he is getting old then when his classmates from law school start donning black robes.  And for me, that classmate is Kevin McCann.  Check out his website Kevin McCann for District Court Judge, or “like” his Facebook site here.   Kevin was one of those lawyers who was a good guy even when he was in law school.  (For 80% of my law school class, I would support their opponent).   I haven’t seen him much since we graduated, but he has been kicking butt over in Pierce County as a deputy prosecutor handling major felonies.   And by “major” I mean murder, robberies and rapes etc.   When lawyers get promoted into such positions of doing major felonies, they often get rusty on the work of District Court.  But McCann has kept active in misdemeanor work by working as a judge pro-tem in courts such as the Olympia and Federal Way municipal courts.

So anyway those are my words of support.  But also from a bloggers point of view you have to admit that McCann has a pretty impressive internet presence.  For example, look at his Facebook Fan Site.  McCann is a political newcomer, and yet already he has more FB fans (506) than Supreme Court incumbant Jim Johnson (397) and Supreme Court candidate Charlie Wiggins (327).   The only judicial candidate that seems to have more FB supporters is Justice Sanders.

For those of you interested in Facebook fan sites for local candidates in Eastern Washington, check out the sites for Tom Brown, Dennis Morgan, Rick Weber.   Show your support!  Also, I have blogged in the past about the Spokane Prosecutors race.  More on that next week.

Judicial Race Takes Shape in Stevens County – Gina Tveit v. Ronnie Rae

An interesting judicial race is taking shape in Stevens County.  Judge Gina Tveit is defending the position of District Court Judge, to which she was appointed last year by the county commissioners.  (Her campaign site is here.) Challenging the incumbent is Spokane criminal defense lawyer Ronnie Rae who bought a home in the Loon Lake area in 2006. Driving through the county, you can see Gina Tveit signs up, but I didn’t see any for Ronnie Rae yet.  Ronnie Rae has been practicing law for 6 years and is just 32 years old (I have blogged about young candidates in the past here).  The only precedent I could find in Eastern Washington for a judicial candidate so young was 33-year-old John O. Cooney, who beat Mark Laiminger to become a Spokane District Court Judge.  But Cooney had name recognition – has dad was also named John Cooney and he was a judge too.

It seems like in judicial elections the race frequently comes down to name.  In 1990 the Chief Justice Keith Callow of Washington State, a widely respected judge who drew little controversy, was thrown off the bench by voters who chose instead a 39-year-old Charles Johnson who had never been an elected judge and who did not campaign.   Political analysts concluded that voters did not know either candidate and so they picked the one with a familiar-sounding name.  Then in 1998, some knucklehead named “Jim Foley” ran for Supreme Court and boasted of having the advantage of a name voters might mistake for Tom Foley, a former congressman and speaker of the House.  Foley beat an incumbent justice in the primary, but lost to Faith Ireland.  Ireland herself changed her name to “Ireland” from Enyeart a few years prior because it would be “easier” for people.

Let’s wait and see what happens with this judicial race in Stevens County.  Tveit is pretty popular in Stevens County, it seems like Rae will have one heck of a hill to climb.

For more on other judicial races see here.

Problems Continue in Grant County

I dare say John Knodell had no idea what kind of chaos would ensue when he decided to step down from his position as Grant County Prosecuting Attorney.  He had served almost 20 years, and resigned when he was elected judge in November of 2008.

A power struggle in Grant County has followed after John Knodell stepped down from that position in '08 after serving for almost 20 years.

Knodell left what  I think political scientists call a “power vacuum”, and we all know that nature abhors a vacuum.   After the Commissioners appointed Angus Lee as prosecuting attorney, he won the election with a slender majority, and hard feelings have followed.  (See prior blog posts on the election battle here, here, and here.)  Angus Lee’s election year opponent Albert Lin just filed a 2.5 million dollar claim against Grant County alleging he was pressured to commit unethical acts by Lee last year.  See article.   Lin complains that he was unlawfully fired.  Hmmmmm.  Sounds a lot like the case in Pierce County in 2008.  Deputy Prosecutor Barbara Corey was fired, and later came back to win a 3 million dollar lawsuit against Pierce County for unlawful termination, defamation of character, etc.  See article.

The people who really end up losing are the public citizens.  This is true in two ways.  First the public ends up paying the big jury awards (the prosecutors don’t pay out of their own pockets of course).  Secondly, the public also pays in lost productivity when a prosecutors office is split in two between supporters of both sides.

Another prosecutor’s race to watch is Kittitas County.  Former deputy prosecutor Mark McClain came out swinging when he announced that he was going to run against his former boss Greg Zempel.  His announcement read: An antiquated office structure, policies which hamper the dedicated and capable staff, a focus on misdemeanor offenses rather than felony crimes with prison sentences, and an elected prosecutor absent from the courtroom, are at the heart of the issue and must be changed in order to protect and maintain the safe community which we enjoy. Ouch!  Whatever happened to at least starting off a campaign on a positive note?

Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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