Thursday, September 07, 2006

On Judicial Elections

Or, more specifically, on this year's elections for the Washington Supreme Court. As I posted previously, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Susan Owens, two well-qualified justices, are facing challenges from candidates bought and paid for by the conservative Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a group which often argues cases before the state Washington Supreme Court. (More about the BIAW and its aims here). Additionally, Justice Tom Chambers is facing a run by a dangerously unqualified candidate.

A useful starting point here is the website, "...a nonpartisan nonpartisan source of judicial evaluation information...." The site includes ratings by the King County Bar Association, the Municipal League of King County, and several others. It also includes campaign contributions and expenditures, with links to state documents detailing where the larger donations (over $1,000) came from. Here are the three Supreme Court races.

Gerry Alexander

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has a clean sweep of newspaper endorsements from across the State of Washington. The King County Bar Association (KCBA) and the Municipal League of King County (MLKC) both rate Alexander highly and significiantly above his opponent. His opponent, more than any other candidate has benefited from the BIAW and its right-wing ilk and that money is being turned into a publicity blitz, including flyers, lawn signs, and even a plane carrying his name on a banner over the city of Seattle. Additionally, paid campaign workers have been knocking on doors on the east side of the state and the BIAW has taken out radio and television ads against Alexander. Call me old fashioned, but I'm not terribly comfortable with a system that elects its judge based on a 30-second tv spot or whose name you saw on the back of an airplane. Gerry Alexander is clearly the superior candidate for this position - Vote Gerry Alexander.

Tom Chambers

Re-electing Tom Chambers is another slam dunk. Both the KCBA and the MLKC rated his opponent "Not Qualified" while giving Chambers solid marks. Fortunately, this is one race where the more qualified candidate has the upper hand financially (due to the poor fundraising efforts of his opponent). Vote Tom Chambers.

Susan Owens

Finally, there is Susan Owens. Justice Owens faces a challenge from an individual with decent qualifications. The KCBA rated her opponent slightly more qualified while the MLKC rated Owens significantly more qualified. What this race comes down to, then, is that Owens's opponent, like Alexander's opponent, has been bought and paid for by industry - by the very individuals who will be arguing cases before the court. Money is a corrupting influence, which is paticularly offensive in the Judiciary - that branch we expect to be free from any corrupting bias. Owens has proven herself a competent, fair-minded jurist. Vote Susan Owens.

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