Monday, March 01, 2010

Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders Announces Re-election Bid

 Sanders vows “to Protect our Individual Rights”

Justice Richard B. Sanders has announced he will seek another term on the Washington State Supreme Court. First elected in 1995, Sanders has become well-known as a defender of the protection of civil liberties and individual rights, calling them his number one priority.

“I believe in protecting our individual rights as guaranteed in the state and federal constitutions,” said Sanders in a press release. “The Court should decide cases not to arrive at a predetermined outcome, but to uphold the principles we believe in. That’s what I’ve done for 15 years even when the result is controversial, but that’s the job description.”

Sanders boasts broad support from across the political spectrum. His campaign co-chairs include former chair of the Washington State Republican Party, Dale Foreman, as well as Democrat Wes Uhlman, a former Seattle Mayor, Lenell Nussbaum, former president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Lem Howell, a former member of the Board of Governors for the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association.

Former Democratic State Senator and Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge and former Republican State Senator Stephen Johnson have also endorsed Sanders.

Sanders was first elected to the court in a special election in 1995 and re-elected to full terms in 1998 and 2004. Before his term on the bench, he was a practicing trial attorney in Bellevue.

Sanders is an authority on the Washington State Constitution which contains greater protection of individual liberties than the federal constitution, and often cites Article One, Section One of the State Constitution, which states “governments … are established to protect and maintain individual rights,” saying he sees protecting those rights as paramount to his role on the Court.

“We see many cases come before the Court where the government has overstepped its bounds and usurped a person’s individual liberty, and I oppose it,” Sanders said. “I was taught that we’re a free country and I want to do everything I can to preserve that freedom for future generations.”

Sanders noted one case when the government confiscated property without giving the owner notice — they just posted it on their website. In another case, he strongly dissented from the court’s decision to deny citizens their right of referendum on the Safeco Field stadium tax.

“The people’s right of referendum must not be held hostage by the very legislature it was designed to check,” he opined.” This is not the way we want our government to behave.”

While Sanders refuses to be labeled, he has been the court’s most outspoken jurist, especially when it comes to public disclosure and open government. His views have led to decisions embraced by liberals and conservatives alike, including  ruling in favor of a medical marijuana user, and as well as decisions supporting gun rights and property rights.

“Secret government leads to tyranny and we must enforce the Public Records Act as written,” he stated.

“A Justice should not pick and choose which constitutional rights they want to uphold,” said Sanders. “All our rights are precious and were put in the Constitution for a reason. When we go to court we are all equals from the largest corporation to the most humble of our fellow citizens.”

During his term on the court, Sanders has not shied away from controversy, believing those in government are not above the law and must be held accountable — the same as any private citizen. He has authored over 566 opinions — more than any other justice on the court during his tenure — and litigated more appeals when he was in private practice than most other Justices

He wrote in a Seattle Times opinion piece, “If the rule of law means anything, it must mean at least this: Those who act or are in positions of authority in our government are subject to the same laws as everyone else. This has been the American tradition, the crown jewel of a free society, a government of laws, not of men.”

“However,” Sanders also wrote, “under the Bush administration, we learned we could no longer take the rule of law for granted.”

During Sanders’ 26 years as a lawyer in private practice, he was viewed as an expert in property issues and often successfully defended the “little guy” and the small family business. “Sometimes I may say things that are not politically correct,” said Sanders. “But telling the truth is my first responsibility and that’s my choice as a free citizen. Thomas Jefferson said, ‘The God who gave us life gave us liberty,’ and I believe that. That’s how I want to live my life and serve on the Court.”

1 comment:

  1. We will be covering this and any other Supreme Court races at EFF's Supreme Court of Washington Blog: