Topic: State Supreme Court
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March 6, 2013 at 6:11 PM
OLYMPIA — Struggling to respond to a state Supreme Court order to put more money into education, some state Senate Republicans on Wednesday came up with a way to save a bit of money: reduce the size of the court.
Senate Bill 5867, introduced Wednesday morning, would reduce the court from nine members to five (the minimum allowed in the state constitution).
And how would the four out-of-luck justices be chosen?
“On June 30, 2013, all existing judges of the state supreme court, shall meet in public to cast lots by drawing straws,” the bill says. “Effective July 1,2013, the positions of the four judges casting losing lots by drawing the shortest straws shall be terminated.”
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, said the job cuts could save about $1.5 million in salary and administrative costs.
Baumgartner, R-Spokane Valley, used two of the court’s recent decisions — both of which went against conservatives — to argue in favor of the bill.
Last year, the court decided in the McCleary case that the state was not fulfilling its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. And last week, the court declared unconstitutional an initiative-imposed two-thirds requirement for lawmakers to raise taxes.
“Every dollar we save by eliminating these four positions would be automatically funneled to K-12 education to help meet the guidelines the Supreme Court laid out in the McCleary decision,” Baumgartner said in a news release.
He added that, “based on their recent rulings on McCleary and their rationale behind the decision to throw out the will of the people regarding the two-thirds tax rule, I expect that the court will support this approach.”
The bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing.
September 27, 2012 at 10:10 AM
There has already been much debate over whether racial bias was partly responsible for the surprising vote totals racked up in the August primary by Bruce Danielson, a little known candidate for the state Supreme Court.
Although he raised no money and ran no campaign, Danielson won 30 of Washington’s 39 counties and got nearly 40 percent of the statewide vote in his race against State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez.
Gonzalez won the election and will appear unopposed on the November ballot, but the primary results raised questions about whether a large chunk of voters, particularly in Eastern and Central Washington, had opposed him due to his Latino surname.
Now Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political science professor, has released an analysis that shows “racial voting bias” indeed played a role in the Danielson-Gonzalez race.
Voters in Central Washington had little information available about the contest because the state declined to print a voters guide due to budget cuts. The nonpartisan race also offered no clue on the ballot as to the partisan ideology of the candidates. Gonzalez had campaigned in the area, raised $300,000, was regarded as highly qualified, and won the endorsement of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Yet voters in Grant and Yakima counties overwhelmingly marked their ballots for Danielson, the virtually unknown lawyer from Kitsap County. In fact, Danielson outperformed the top Republican candidates for governor (Rob McKenna) and Senate (Michael Baumgartner) in the area. Danielson got more support than Baumgartner in every precinct in Yakima County.
The UW analysis looked at the results in heavily white precincts versus heavily Latino precincts and found deep racial polarization.
In Yakima County, the regression estimates that across all precincts 68.6 percent of Latinos
voted for González while just 25.1 percent of non-Latinos voted for Gonzalez – a 43 point
voting differential between Latinos and non-Latinos. Analyzing Grant County results yields
very similar trends. Based on the data across precincts, the model estimates that González
received 68.7 percent of the Latino vote and 29.5 percent of the non-Latino vote – a 39 point
Danielson has suggested voters may have looked at his web site and liked his conservative views on the Constitution – in other words, voting for him based on ideology rather than race.
But Barreto found no evidence for that. In addition to Danielson outshining well-known conservatives like McKenna, Barreto noted that Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens, generally described as “center-left” in her ideology, received 60.5 percent of the vote in Yakima County against lesser known opponents who did not have Latino last names.
The results show that, had it been up to Eastern and Central Washington, Gonzalez would have lost to a vastly less qualified opponent who did not even campaign. The fact that he won was only attributable to more populous Western Washington counties. “That should set off serious question marks,” Barreto said.
In an op-ed in The Seattle Times, Barreto and David Perez, an attorney with Perkins Coie, argue that Washington should pass a Voting Rights Act to give a better shot to Latino candidates in Central Washington, who struggle against the same “racially polarized headwinds” that showed up in the Gonzalez-Danielson race.
That law would push cities and counties toward district-voting systems, which have proven to elect more racial minority candidates than citywide or countywide elections.
August 7, 2012 at 9:06 PM
Early returns from King County pushed incumbent Justice Steve Gonzalez over the edge and appear almost certain to allow him to advance unopposed to the general election in November.
Gonzalez had been locked in a tight duel with challenger Bruce Danielson, leading 50 percent to 49 percent in early returns. But when King County results were added later in the evening, Gonzalez’s lead grew to 56 percent to 43 percent.
Candidates for justice who get more than 50 percent of the primary vote advance to the general election unopposed.
Justice Susan Owens also will retain her seat, earning 64 percent against two opponents.
But former Justice Richard Sanders, who was unseated in 2010, was still trailing Seattle appellate lawyer Sheryl Gordon McCloud, with King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer right behind.
While McCloud may advance to the general election, having earned 32 percent of the vote in their four-way race. But Sanders had 27 percent and Hilyer 26 percent. Former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who had 15 percent.
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