This year, three State Supreme Court candidates are up for re-election – Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, and Justices Mary Yu and Charles Wiggins. Perhaps because all three are unabashed ideological liberals and activist judges, they all face opponents.
In fact, this year is the first since the 1990’s when every justice facing re-election has been opposed.
So, who is the competition?
- Greg Zempel — Kittitas County Prosecutor — is taking on Madsen.
- David DeWolf — a Gonzaga University law professor — is contesting Yu.
- David Larson — a Federal Way Municipal Court judge — is challenging Wiggins.
At the heart of the drive to replace sitting justice are the controversial decisions that have come out of the State Supreme Court — decisions that relied on activist, rather than constitution-based interpretations of the law. Notably, the court’s decision to hold the state Legislature in contempt (a clear overreach of its powers) and strike down voter-approved public charter schools via an opinion plagiarized from the plaintiffs’ (which included the Washington Education Association) brief.
Given recent history, the current justices have proven themselves incapable of leaving their extreme partisanship out of the decision-making process. If liberal activist justices like Madsen, Yu, and Wiggins continue to sit on the Supreme Court, more damaging decisions can be expected.
Here are three reasons — in the form of upcoming cases — why you should be paying attention to the Supreme Court races this election cycle:
1. WEA’s second lawsuit against public charter schools.
During the 2016 legislatives session, a Republican-led effort in the state Legislature managed to save public charter schools after the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Unfortunately, before the celebratory confetti even hit the ground, the WEA launched a new lawsuit attack against public charter schools.
The WEA’s new lawsuit claims that the changes do not address the flaws identified by the court. Of course, the real problem is that the WEA doesn’t get any money out of charter schools—the teachers don’t have to pay union dues.
The WEA’s war on charter schools is not about education of children. Rather, it’s about more money in the union’s war chest. And, as recipients of the WEA’s money, that’s exactly where too many of our state Supreme Court justices have an interest in seeing the money stay.
The court’s decision against charter schools shocked the nation the first time around. You can bet the justices are willing to cater to special interests the second time around as well.
2. A future state income tax.
There is no current lawsuit involving a state income tax. But, there is an important, foreseeable case.
This year, a group called Opportunity for Olympia is circulating a petition that calls for creating a 1.5 percent tax on household income in excess of $200,000. The income tax would supposedly impacting Olympia’s “wealthiest households to generate college tuition money for all local high school graduates.”
The liberal group admits that the “bigger picture” is to “present a formidable chink in opposition to a state income tax, and help reform a regressive tax system.” In other words, they are hoping for a state income tax fight in the state Supreme Court.
The fact that the proposal contains highly questionable legality issues ensures it will face a legal challenge if passed. And, supporters are hoping that the current liberal court would abandon decades of court precedent and open the doors for an income tax statewide.
Given recent ultra-liberal decisions, it is well within the realm of possibility that the current justices on the state Supreme Court will pave the way for Democrats to finally achieve their “guiding principle,” i.e. a state income tax.
3. Future McCleary-related rulings.
During the 2015 legislative session, state lawmakers made historic investments in K-12 education. So, the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a brief with the state Supreme Court arguing that certain contempt sanctions put on the state due to the McCleary decision should be lifted.
The court did not oblige.
Rather, in a stunning overreach of power, the court slapped a $100,000 per day fine on taxpayers for what it viewed as the state’s failure to take necessary strides toward meeting the requirements of the McCleary decision.
Ultimately, lawmakers took fine for what it was: a largely symbolic public relations move by the liberal justices bent on a power overreach—again. After all, money can only be disbursed via appropriation by the state Legislature. If lawmakers did not appropriate money to pay the fine, it won’t get paid.
The state Supreme Court will continue to make McCleary related decisions. The question is, how much liberal grandstanding will the public have to endure?