Pro-Life Justice Fighting Off Liberal Attacks to Regain Seat on Washington Supreme Court


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 unflinching defense of property rights, 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.

Once in the crosshairs of the left and the complicit liberal media, the attacks on Sanders continued. In 2003, he visited Washington’s sexual predator center, then located at McNeil Island, in order to gain a better understanding of sex offenders, whose cases comprise some of the Supreme Court’s docket. The Commission on Judicial Conduct admonished him for casually talking with a handful of inmates at the center, vaguely accusing him of violating “judicial impartiality” since some of the residents had active court cases.

Sanders came under attack again right before the 2010 election over remarks he made about race, likely costing him the election after the liberal media blew them up. The Seattle Times switched its endorsement of Sanders at the last minute to his opponent. The offending comment by Sanders? Blacksmay 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.”

Sanders’ special interest is the Washington Constitution, and says his favorite provision is the role of government to protect and maintain individual rights. University of Washington affiliate law professor Hugh Spitzer said that Sandersis perhaps the deepest thinker on his court” and “one of the brightest thinkers of that court.” Sanders wrote more than twice as many dissents as any of the other justices in 2009, standing up for principles rather than compromising. Sanders even dissented from one of his own opinions, after the Ninth Circuit came to a different conclusion on a separate case.

Sanders is a principled constitutionalist. He upheld religious freedom in his majority opinion Maylon v. Pierce, ruling that volunteer chaplains for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department do not violate the religious establishment clause. He has railed against “political correctness” in both his court opinions and previous writing for the University of Washington student newspaper The Daily while a law student. Sanders voted 90 percent of the time for lesser or no sanctions against attorneys who came before the court on disciplinary proceedings. It is common knowledge that there is a systemic problem nationwide of state bar associations and disciplinary judges throwing the book at right-leaning attorneys and judges.

A libertarian, Sanders is also known for his pro-criminal defense decisions. This has alienated most prosecutors from supporting him and likely costs him some support from conservatives. Sanders tends to look out for the underdog and perceives his views on criminal issues as consistent with his libertarian philosophy.

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 is endorsed by Congressman Ron Paul, Attorney General Rob McKenna, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, both the Washington State Republican and Libertarian Parties, Gun Owners Action League, the National Rifle Association, property rights organizations, and pro-life and Christian organizations. The Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights has rated him outstanding. Outgoing Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers endorsed Sanders over the other three candidates vying for his seat. The liberal King County Bar Association predictably rated him the lowest of the four candidates, evidence of their bias against those on the right.

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.

Those on the left and their friends in the liberal media continue repeating the same three smear stories about Sanders. When will voters wake up and realize that they are being fed what the media wants them to be fed? Stories endlessly repeated should be a warning sign to the public that they are being propagandized. Voters should ask why the media is pushing certain information and wonder what they are not telling us. Half-truths and innuendoes are no way to decide elections. Former Democrat State Senator and Supreme Court justice Phil Talmadge said about Sanders, “I don’t think we’d want a Supreme Court of nine Richard Sanders, but it’s healthy to have someone there who will be very careful on actions by government, and that is why I have endorsed him.”

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Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander is the editor of intellectualconservative.com and an attorney. She writes a weekly column for Townhall and other publications. In 2009, she received the RightOnline Activist of the Year award. She was named one of Right Wing News' best 50 conservative columnists for the last three years in a row. Her day job is as editor of Western Shooting Journal.

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