Decision could be quick in state Supreme Court races
It interprets the laws of the state and its decisions affect future cases for generations. Yet, this year's races for the state Supreme...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Residence: Mercer Island
Family: Married, two children
Education: Law degree, Gonzaga University School of Law; graduate degree, University of Washington School of Law
Experience: 28 years in private practice; served as an arbitrator in dozens of cases; publication of legal writings
Campaign Web site: www.bondforjustice.com
Education: Law degree, Gonzaga University School of Law
Experience: Judicial Information System Committee, chairwoman; Board for Judicial Administration Public Trust and Confidence Committee, chairwoman; Council on Public Legal Education, member; Washington State Bar Association, president and board of governors; Washington Women Lawyers, president.
Campaign Web site: www.JusticeMaryFairhurst.com
Family: Married, two children
Education: Law degree, University of Washington School of Law
Experience: Before entering private practice, served as a prosecutor in the Seattle City Attorney's Office and a senior trial lawyer in the Office of Attorney General
Campaign Web site: www.beecher08.com
Residence: Gig Harbor
Education: Law degree, Seattle University School of Law
Experience: 18 years on the state Supreme Court; 12 years teaching Washington state constitution at Seattle University School of Law; 14 years in private legal practice
Campaign Web site: www.justicecharlesjohnson.com
Education: Law degree, University of California, Hastings
Experience: 37 years of private legal practice
Campaign Web site: www.Vulliet4Justice.org
It interprets the laws of the state and its decisions affect future cases for generations. Yet, this year's races for the state Supreme Court are so lacking in controversy, voters might not realize the two seats up for grabs could be decided in the Aug. 19 primary.
Any judicial candidate getting more than 50 percent of the vote wins without having to advance to the general election, according to rules for judicial races. Two incumbents, Justices Charles Johnson and Mary Fairhurst, are in the running. Justice Debra Stephens, appointed to replace Justice Bobbe Bridge in January, is on the ballot unopposed.
Johnson, who came to the court 18 years ago as an unknown Gig Harbor attorney, has two challengers, C.F. "Frank" Vulliet and James Beecher, both of Seattle, who argue — as Johnson did once — that it's time for new faces and ideas.
Johnson, 57, now the senior member of the court and the associate chief justice, says experience counts and that he's proud of the direction the court has taken, especially where accessibility to the public is concerned.
He is rated as exceptionally well qualified by the Washington Women Lawyers, King County Bar, Latino/a Bar Association and other groups. He is endorsed by the Washington Federation of State Employees, State Council of Firefighters, Washington State Labor Council and many more.
Johnson has reported raising about $64,000 in campaign contributions.
Beecher, 68, who works in a Seattle law firm, has been a Seattle city prosecutor and was a trial attorney for the state Attorney General's Office. He said he's running against Johnson because "the court needs a boost. ... Eighteen years is a long time, especially for a person who has not had extensive experience before going on the bench."
Beecher has worked as a pro-tem judge, arbiter and mediator. He says his strength is his wide-ranging experience. He has represented individuals, large and small businesses, and state and local governments in such diverse matters as consumer protection, insurance, civil rights, construction and the environment.
The Washington Women Lawyers rated him as exceptionally well qualified. He was endorsed by the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, and the Seattle Municipal League rated him as "very good."
Vulliet, 66, a Mercer Island attorney who lives in a second home in Sunriver, Ore., has been suspended from practicing law because he has not completed his continuing-legal-education requirements. He said he plans to take the required classes if he is elected.
He lists his strengths as "educability, curiosity, an ability to suspend disbelief and listen to the evidence or argument without predisposition to ensure that I am fully hearing and understanding someone's position with open ears, eyes and mind."
He has no endorsements.
Neither he nor Beecher has reported any campaign donations.
Fairhurst, 50, who narrowly won her election in 2002, says she is especially proud of her efforts to enhance access to justice for low- and moderate-income people and ensuring that citizens "have trust and confidence in the courts."
She has a string of major endorsements, from the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs to Gov. Christine Gregoire, in addition to all but one of the sitting justices. Justice James Johnson has declined to endorse anyone.
Fairhurst has raised more than $176,000 in campaign contributions.
Her opponent, Michael Bond, says he is challenging her because she too often sides with government in her rulings. Fairhurst once worked in the state Attorney General's Office, but she defends her decisions as fair and based on the law.
Bond, 55, who has raised nearly $14,000 in contributions, is a partner in a law firm and has had a diverse legal career.
"We need justices who will stand up to the growth of government power over our lives and property, more so now than ever. What makes me unique is I have not spent my entire career in Olympia advancing and defending this growth of power," he said. "Instead, I've spent 28 years in the real world."
His endorsements include the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Liability Reform Coalition, Washington Arms Collectors and the Snohomish County Farm Bureau.
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published August 12, was corrected August 15. A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Justice Mary Fairhurst is endorsed by all the sitting justices.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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