Ruling unanimous -- and quick
The Supreme Court's opinion in the governor's race was only a few hours old yesterday when the first nasty e-mail came to Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. "You can't make law from...
Seattle Times chief political reporter
OLYMPIA — The Supreme Court's opinion in the governor's race was only a few hours old yesterday when the first nasty e-mail came to Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.
"You can't make law from bench," the writer admonished, after opening with an obscenity.
As Justice Faith Ireland drove home, she heard radio reports of the decision that she said were inaccurate and alarmist.
"Everyone has an opinion on these very important subjects," said Ireland, who did not run for re-election this year and likely heard her last case yesterday.
The court reached a unanimous agreement — allowing King County to count hundreds of ballots that had been mistakenly disqualified — after just 90 minutes of discussion yesterday morning. That's extraordinarily quick action for the court.
It wasn't by design, but the unanimity of the decision could help calm the sorts of political attacks courts have come under in election cases.
The Washington Supreme Court had also been unanimous last week when it ruled against state Democrats' attempt to force county election officers statewide to re-examine rejected ballots.
Justices of the state's highest court don't talk about what happens in the closed sessions where they decide how to rule.
"It wasn't anything as chief I can force. But I must say I was pleased that we were able to get unanimity on both cases," Alexander said in an interview yesterday.
The court could have simply issued an order today overturning a lower-court judge's ruling that had stopped King County from counting hundreds of disputed ballots. But Alexander said it was important to release a full opinion to give the court's reasoning.
The court, whose justices are elected in nonpartisan elections, is usually in recess at this time of year. Yesterday three justices were absent, which would have left six on the bench, so Alexander appointed a substitute judge to ensure there could not be a tie decision.
Ireland said courts "venture cautiously into the political arena."
"We've done everything we can to expedite these cases and to make sure that everything is done to minimize interference of the judiciary in the electoral process," Ireland said.
Clearly, the court hopes it is done for the year and this recount.
Yesterday Alexander welcomed people to the court "for the last scheduled oral argument of 2004. I think."
"We hope," added another justice.
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