Not that Justice Richard B. Sanders has even left the Washington State Supreme Court yet.


Word continues to circulate that Justice Sanders—defeated at the polls last year but still issuing rulings, and now in his second post-defeat, pro-tem term—is angling for ways to officially get back on the bench.

There are two possibilities in the near term: Re-election or gubernatorial appointment.

And hey, if Justice Sanders drags out his current pro tem service long enough (he still has 16 cases he's working on!), it's actually possible to imagine a scenario in which he gets kicked out of office (as happened last November) but then stays in his seat via pro tem status long enough that he manages to concurrently snag an official seat through re-election or appointment—giving him uninterrupted tenure at the high court, never mind that whole losing-an-election business.

It's not easy to imagine this, but it's possible. Here's how it would work:

Justice Sanders takes a loooooong time coming to his conclusions in the 16 cases he's still working on as a pro tem judge. Say, a month for each case—or, in other words, another 16 months.

That would give him at least two chances at a new seat on the high court and a remarkable legacy of service uninterrupted by defeat at the polls.

The first chance will come at the end of this year, when Chief Justice Gerry Alexander will hit the supreme court age limit of 75 and be forced to retire. His retirement will bring about an opportunity for a gubernatorial appointment to the court, and while Governor Chris Gregoire is not likely to put Justice Sanders back on the bench, if she takes long enough, or takes a pass, who knows... Would a Governor Rob McKenna be more favorable to the idea?

Probably not, so here's the more likely scenario: Justice Sanders hangs on for the full 16 months—or at least tries to keep himself in the public consciousness for the next 16 months—and then runs for the seat of Justice Tom Chambers, who's facing re-election in 2012 (and, rumor is, could retire at the end of his current term anyway).

I find this scenario unlikely as well, but less unlikely than the first. And never mind what I think. You know who's said he finds the idea of Justice Sanders getting officially back on the bench plausible?

Justice Sanders.