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Pro-Life Justice in Danger in Washington State

I admit, I’m no expert on the politics of the Evergreen State, but its races deserve more attention than we on the Right usually get it. After all, it was the 2004 gubernatorial election pitting Republican Dino Rossi against Democrat Christine Gregoire that was the textbook definition of a stolen election until the 2008 Minnesota Senate race came along. This year, for example, the gubernatorial election is very close. Real Clear Politics has Democrat Jay Inslee (formerly of Washington’s 1st Congressional District) up by only 0.7% over Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna in their polling average.

But it’s not just the governor’s race that deserves our attention. There’s a race for a state Supreme Court seat that we need to look at as well, where right-leaning Richard Sanders is trying to regain his seat on the court. Columnist Rachel Alexander has an excellent column up on Townhall.com explaining the race and the stakes:

One of only two right-leaning justices who has served on the Washington Supreme Court in recent years is in the battle of his life to regain his seat. As a result of his freedom of religion, sanctity of marriage, gun rights, and the unborn, former Justice Richard Sanders has been a lightening rod for attacks from the left and the biased media. Those attacks finally cost him reelection in 2010, after serving on the high court for three terms since 1995.

After he was sworn into office at the Washington Supreme Court in 1996, Sanders walked over to a pro-life rally at the State Capitol and briefly thanked the pro-lifers for their support. His enemies on the left complained and made him the subject of a long, drawn out expensive ethics investigation by the state judicial conduct commission, which reprimanded him. The Supreme Court refused to allow the Attorney General to represent him, forcing him to pay for his own defense. $92,479 in attorneys fees later, the reprimand was overturned by the Washington State Court of Appeals as a violation of free speech. Sanders was forced to sue the state to obtain reimbursement of his fees. The highly publicized ethics investigation went on for so long that ultimately his name and reputation were significantly damaged.

The Liberal media, predictably, has put him through the grinder. One of the most outrageous examples is the outrage ginned up over some comments on race he made. Alexander explains:

The offending comment by Sanders? Blacks may be disproportionately incarcerated because they commit more crimes, rather than because the criminal-judicial system is biased. Later he clarified what he meant, but it was too late, “I would never say, nor do I believe, that people commit crimes because of their race.”

He is a principled constitutionalist, and his willingness to stand up for religious freedom is even more important in today’s times. This willingness is exemplified by his ruling in the case Maylon v. Pierce County, where he, writing for the majority, found that volunteer chaplains for the Pierce County sheriff’s department did not violate the religious establishment clause of the state’s constitution (Article I, section 11), and his distaste for political correctness can be found throughout his court opinions and his writings for the University of Washington’s student newspaper The Daily from back when he was a law student.

Lastly, we get to why this case is so important. Alexander explains in her column:

The Supreme Court has shifted to the left since Sanders lost reelection, with only one conservative left, Jim Johnson. Without Sanders, the court voted 5-4 to strike down an initiative against red light cameras. Sanders said, “Had I been on the court it would have been 5-4 the other way.”

[...]

Sanders will likely face off in the general election against Sheryl Gordon McCloud, who is described by the Tacoma News Tribune as “a fiery liberal.” McCloud, a criminal defense attorney, has been endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League, unions, Democrat clubs, an executive director from the radical Latino organization El Centro De La Raza and numerous criminal defense attorneys.

There’s far more to Mrs. Alexander’s column, but I think this suffices as evidence for why we should support him. It’s not enough to focus merely on the United States Supreme Court–though it is doubtlessly extremely important to insure we get the right kinds of judges serving there. We need more constitutionalists sitting on the benches of our state supreme courts.  Justice Sanders fits that bill. You can visit his website here and contribute or, if you live in Washington, find out ways to get involved with his campaign.

I’ll close with some remarks by the justice himself from his website:

Let’s make sure he makes it back to the Washington state Supreme Court.

P.S. Rob McKenna‘s a pretty good guy to support, too!

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