Again, forgive my cynicism, but considering the Seattle Times editorial board’s track record of transparently passing off Frank Blethen’s narrow partisan agenda as the public interest, I instantly assumed the worst when I read today’s headline: “Watch carefully as Justice is named.”
And I wasn’t disappointed. Or, uh, I was disappointed. Um… you know what I mean.
The Times argues that the public should carefully watch Gov. Chris Gregoire as she appoints a replacement for retiring Justice Bobbe Bridge, and while the unsigned editorial offers no names, it does “have some thoughts on qualifications.”
- It would be good to add to the diversity of experience on the court, which has a former appellate judge (Gerry Alexander), tribal judge (Susan Owens), special prosecutor for child abuse cases (Barbara Madsen), specialists in voter initiatives (Jim Johnson) and bankruptcy and collections (Mary Fairhurst) and several trial attorneys (Charles Johnson, Richard Sanders, Tom Chambers). What it does not have is someone with major experience as a criminal prosecutor.
- It would be very good to have more geographic diversity. The court is all from west of the mountains. Its gender diversity is good, but its ethnic diversity is not.
- It is essential the appointee be willing to discuss his or her judicial philosophy. Some candidates have declared it is improper to talk about such things. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is all right, and we believe the voters need to know, so candidates for the court should speak their mind.
Let’s just be brutally honest. Quite simply, this editorial clearly assumes that its readers are a bunch of fucking morons.
Huh… let’s see… the new justice should be a criminal prosecutor from east of the mountains. Oh, how coy. How clever. You mean… a Republican.
And while they “offer no names,” the qualifications the Times lays out are clearly designed to eliminate all of the top names I’ve heard being bandied about by Olympia insiders. In fact, it is fair to speculate that the editorial is specifically aimed at Jenny Durkan, a prominent Democrat and close friend and advisor to Gov. Gregoire. Durkan is probably best known to Times readers as the kick-ass attorney who humiliated Dino Rossi’s lawyers in that Wenatchee courtroom. Durkan is one of the most highly respected attorneys in the state, and I’m guessing the Times is guessing that the appointment is hers for the asking… if she’s willing to give up her lucrative private practice.
To dismiss this editorial as sophistry is to give the anonymous writer too much credit. It is bullshit. Ridiculous, illogical bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit that totally disrespects the intelligence of the reader.
We need a criminal prosecutor on the bench? Why? If the argument is that we need somebody experienced in criminal law, why not a trial judge or criminal defense attorney? What’s the problem? Is Washington soft on crime? Don’t we lock up enough of our citizens? The Supreme Court doesn’t rule on evidence, it rules on points of law, an exercise whose primary requisite is constitutional scholarship and a sharp legal mind. That skill-set doesn’t exclude a criminal prosecutor, but it doesn’t particularly recommend one.
And the Times laughably argues for more diversity (other than gender) at the same time slamming the court for failing to block Seattle Schools’ racial tiebreaker? What’s up with that?
No, the Times didn’t put forth its “thoughts on qualifications” in pursuit of a qualified jurist, but rather a conservative one. What the Times wants is a court that will toss out the estate tax, legalize dog shooting and bust up organized labor. Let’s face it, Frank Blethen’s personal Hell would be a unionized Heaven.
Washington voters elected Chris Gregoire governor, presumably because we thought she was the candidate who best reflected our values. And Gov. Gregoire should follow suit, appointing the best qualified justice who best reflects her values. That’s what executives do. That’s what we expect of them.
That’s what Gov. Gregoire will do, and the Times knows it.
When the Times lays out a set of narrow qualifications, and then writes that “Gregoire needs to choose a candidate who can be defended,” what they are really saying is that she needs to choose a candidate who can be defended against attack from the Times.
Whoever the appointee is, he or she should consider today’s Times editorial as the opening salvo in their 2008 election campaign.