9/19/2006 Primary – Redmond, King County, Washington

On 9/19/2006 it will be time to vote in my part of the world. As usual I provide my election guide. Since I claim allegiance to neither the Democratic nor the Republic parties I will not be taking part in their primaries. As such I will only list my position for nonpartisan positions. I will update this article as I decide on my positions.

  • Justice of the Supreme Court – Position No. 2 – Susan Owens

  • Justice of the Supreme Court – Position No. 8 – Gerry L. Alexander

  • Justice of the Supreme Court – Position No. 9 – Tom Chambers

  • Court of Appeals Judge – Division No. 1 – District No. 1 – Position No. 4 – Ronald E. Cox

  • Court of Appeals Judge – Division No. 1 – District No. 1 – Position No. 7 – Marlin J. Appelwick

  • King County District Court – Northeast Electoral District – Judge Position No. 3 – Frank V. LaSalata

  • King County Proposition No .1 – NO

Justice of the Supreme Court – Position No. 2 – Susan Owens

With the hundreds of thousands of dollars being pumped into supreme court races this year I am forced to ask myself the question – should judges take donations? I believe the answer must be no. The essence of a judge's job is impartiality. That is the fundamental function of the courts, to impartially rule on the law. That is a very different job than say the legislature where partiality is not just allowed but a necessary part of the process. Money is power and when a judge takes campaign donations they are giving power to those donors. I therefore have a strong inclination not to vote for judges who take campaign donations.

But if judges aren't going to take donations then it is doubly important that they be very forward in communicating their judicial philosophy to the voters. Once upon a time the previous sentence would be a contradiction since any real outreach requires cash, at the very least I would be arguing that only the rich should try to become judges. But one of the many political wonders of the web is that it is now dirt cheap for candidates to make their views well known. So I see absolutely no excuse for a judicial candidate not to have a web site. It doesn't have to be fancy or sophisticated, just informative.

  • Michael Johnson – He apparently has no judicial experience and no website, so no vote.

  • Stephen Johnson – His experience as a senator is interesting but nevertheless he has no judicial much less appellate experience. His website made clear that he is from the 'no legislating from the bench' school of thought which I like. On the other hand he took the second largest amount of contributions of any judge running for any Washington State supreme court position and his friends appear to be heavily involved in the property business. Even the appearance much less the reality of impartiality is blown, no vote here.

  • Richard Smith – I don't believe that someone campaigning for a nonpartisan position has any business proselytizing for their own partisan positions (in this case his support of publicly financed elections). No vote here.

  • Norman J. Ericson – On the bright side he has actual judicial experience but not (near as I can tell) appellate experience. He also doesn't take donations. On the down side he doesn't seem to have a website, hasn't said much to the press and hasn't been rated by any of the usual legal rating groups. There appears to be no 'there' there, so I can't really vote for him.

  • Susan Owens – She has a website but other than attacking Stephen Johnson for taking PAC money it's content free. For someone who complains about the role of money in judicial elections she has taken a lot of money herself. I also find it just bizarre that she took money from lawyers. I mean, come on, how can you even pretend you are impartial when you take money from people who could appear before you? Still, I don't see any particularly well organized group who she would owe allegiance to (unlike Stephen Johnson and the many donations he received from property developers). At least she has been positively rated by all the usual suspects although I wonder why she only got "qualified" by the King County Bar Association when Stephen Johnson got a "well qualified". Honestly, I can't say I'm thrilled with any of these choices. But it's my job as a citizen to pick someone and so I pick Susan Owens. She had judicial experience before joining the court, is clearly qualified for the job and seems the least awful of the available choices.

Justice of the Supreme Court – Position No. 8 – Gerry L. Alexander

  • John Groen – With literally double as much money raised and spent as any other supreme court candidate I can only view Mr. Groen as being in hoc up to his ears to his buddies in the property business (he is a property rights litigator). Whatever rosy feelings his 'don't legislate from the bench' position may give me I simply can't credibly view him as being impartial. It especially didn't help that even when the law was changed to reduce the amount of money individuals could contribute to judicial candidates Mr. Groen, unlike all the other candidates, choose to continue to accept larger donations right up until the deadline. And his constant protests that he doesn't know who his donors are doesn't, in my opinion, pass the laugh test. It also didn't help that of the two legal rating groups that rated both Groen and his opponent Alexander, both preferred Alexander and that every single newspaper in the area, without exception, also preferred Alexander. In the end his complete lack of any judicial experience (and yes, I know that many of judges on the Washington Supreme Court didn't have judicial experience before serving on the court, I think that's bad) and his ridiculous fund raising make it impossible for me to vote for Mr. Groen.

  • Gerry L. Alexander – If he had just $4,000 or so more in donations he could have tied for 3rd place as largest raiser of cash in this campaign. He seems, much like Susan Owens, to have gotten most of his money from lawyers, not exactly a great way to prevent conflicts of interest or maintain impartiality. At least from an experience perspective he's nearly ideal with many years of experience at just about all levels of the judiciary. It's not surprising that he was so highly rated by the folks who worry about such things. I also find it more than a little worrisome that 12 days before the election his website has no speeches or articles posted by him so it's very difficult to determine his judicial philosophy. Yes, I realize he has decades of written decisions but I'm not qualified to really know which ones are best to look at. I read a fairly lengthy interview with him but I must admit that it didn't give me much insight into his philosophy beyond the fact that he seems extremely reasonable. I also must admit that I'm rather unhappy with the fact the he will have to retire eight months before his term expires due to the mandatory retirement age rule for Washington State supreme court justices. This means that whoever is the governor at the time will get to appoint his replacement, so much for the Supreme Court being a non-partisan position. In the end I am more voting against Groen than for Alexander but the outcome is the same, Alexander gets my vote.

Justice of the Supreme Court – Position No. 9 – Tom Chambers

  • Jeanette Burrage – I like the fact that Ms. Burrage has a background as a judge and her don't legislate from the bench attitude. But there is no chance she is getting my vote when her submitted campaign description includes the fact that she attends a particular church and is a leader for the Boy Scouts. The fact that she choose, of her own volition, to publish this personal information clearly demonstrates that she feels they are germane to a decision to vote for her. In what version of reality could I ever view her as impartial when she public declares her religion and her association with a homophobic organization? I have no problem with her attending the church of her choice and even associating with the Boy Scouts, my problem is when she chooses to take what should be a private matter and make it a public one. I suppose the fact the both legal rating groups rated her as unqualified and only one newspaper came out for her not to mention the lawyers running away from her issue also helped make the decision not to vote for her easier.

  • Tom Chambers – He is #3 in raising money, he absolutely adores endorsements, it's like Mr. Chambers just wants to prove how partial he is. At least he has lots of experience on the court. Out of curiosity I decided to read his dissenting opinion in Andersen (Heather) et al. v. King County which decided that the 'defense of marriage' act law in Washington State was constitutional. Mr. Chambers dissented from that opinion and so I wanted to see if he was an activist judge. In reading the text of his opinion I found his arguments to be reasonable and well within the bounds of the Washington State constitution (as if I was qualified to judge that). Also, as a matter of procedure, I thought his opinions page was absolutely brilliant. His format and summaries are a fantastic way for a sitting judge to display his views in an appropriate manner. I read a bunch of his summaries and consistently found his opinions reasonable. I wish he would honor the nonpartisan and impartial nature of a supreme court justice by refusing donations and endorsements but at least as a Judge he looks like someone I can be happy to vote for. (And yes, I did notice the letter of censure (see point 20) he received in the 1970s but given his 30+ year record since then I believe it can be treated as less than fully relevant)

Court of Appeals Judge – Division No. 1 – District No. 1 – Position No. 4 – Ronald E. Cox

He's running unopposed.

Court of Appeals Judge – Division No. 1 – District No. 1 – Position No. 7 – Marlin J. Appelwick

He's running unopposed.

King County District Court – Northeast Electoral District – Judge Position No. 3 – Frank V. LaSalata

  • Richard Pope – I'm trying to decide if the fact that this guy has run for various offices (and lost) 10 times should count against him. In and of itself losing elections is no big deal and running for various offices isn't a big deal either, I certainly don't want to punish the civic minded. But what I would like to see is someone who is focused. His various bids are all over the map. I also can't say that the fact that the King County Bar Association (which even explained why) and Municipal League both rated him as unqualified gives me the warm fuzzies either. Finally, he has no experience as a judge at any level. So no vote for Mr. Pope.

  • Mary Ann Ottinger – As both of her opponents are quick to point out Ms. Ottinger has twice been censured by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for failing to properly inform defendants of their right to counsel before entering a plea (in the text in the previous link the pleas were all 'guilty') and was suspended for a month as a result. I'm sorry, maybe, possibly, perhaps in a high traffic court room you could somehow excuse the first censure but getting a second censure for the exact same thing is out of bounds. No vote for Ms. Ottinger. As a side note: I'd love to understand how the King County Bar rates her as unqualified but the Municipal League rates her as "very good". When two judge rating organizations can come to such radically different conclusions one is forced to assume there's a rat somewhere.

  • Frank V. LaSalata – On the plus side he has lots of judicial experience and has received high ratings from both the King County Bar and the Municipal League. On the minus side he was overturned once because of biased behavior. I read some of the details of the overturned conviction and yes it was bad but not horrific and compared to Ottinger's failure to inform defendants of their right to counsel before they pled guilty it's really quite minor. I don't like that LaSalata is trying to raise money but I have to pick from what I've got. So LaSalata gets my vote.

King County Proposition No .1 – NO

The proposition provides funding to the King County finger printing system called AFIS. I don't believe in off budget special funds. It is the job of the King County Council to collect taxes and spend them appropriately. This proposition violates that duty. It takes the finger printing system out of the budget and gives it is own funding source. I can't find any compelling reason why this makes sense and many for why it's a bad idea. First and foremost, it ties the hands of the council. If different priorities should call for a different allocation of funding, tough, by passing this proposition the money goes to one and only one place. Second, if it should turn out that AFIS is over funded or could be handled more cheaply, tough, the money just keeps coming. It's the county council's job to spend our tax dollars providing us with basic services, AFIS is one of those services. There is no need for this proposition so I'm voting no.

3 thoughts on “9/19/2006 Primary – Redmond, King County, Washington”

  1. Interestingly, I received a mailing from “AFIS Yes!” today, apparently paid for by a group called the AFIS Renewal Campaign. With a P.O. Box listing in Seattle, I found little to no information about this group on either the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission site or King County Elections.

    I don’t recall receiving campaign materials to renew the AFIS levy in previous election cycles, it would be interesting to know who is funding the AFIS Renewal Campaign, why, and how much is being contributed.

  2. The question of voter approval “special property taxes” to fund AFIS for 2007 – 2012 is unbelievable. Has everybody been asleep? Property value has grown by leaps and bounds: results = Higher Property Taxes are already here through this new valuation. If the elected officials cannot come up with a new budget which covers fingerprinting and related costs with all of this “additional Tax $$$$” then we need to find new elected officials. Come on guys, this is a no brainer.

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