Features Oct 7, 2010 at 4:00 am

The Troubling Double Standards of Justice Richard Sanders


Thanks for the article, Eli.
This guy's a clown. Has anyone checked him for Alzheimer's?

Sometimes justices get a little weird after they've held so much life-and-death power in their hands for a few years. Their demand for attention and admiration goes beyond deep respect for the law and its institutions. They begin to wear imaginary crowns on their heads.

It's happened on the SCOTUS, too. I hear Scalia can get a little loony at times, and in fairness, I've read Thurgood Marshall wasn't playing with a full deck in his last years on the court.

In Justice Sanders' case, what does one do? Organize for impeachment?
1) Wow, this is an incredible article. Amazing work, Eli.

2) Holy shit! (In)Justice Sanders is even more of a gay-basher, a hypocrite, a liar, and an all-around asshole than we could've ever imagined. Whatta sonovabitch!
How about a companion piece on loathsome, hate-crazed, despicable fraud, Chief (In)Justice Barbara Madsen?
My brother and his boyfriend have been together for 34 years -- yet this disgusting, bigoted, hypocritical old fart would deny them the marriage he himself spurns.

Some family values -- but of course it's always the hypocrite with the biggest mouth to gay bash.
Dude, he's a fucking Teabagger. This is news?!?!?
Wow what a piece of shit.
Upon further reflection, the central theme here seems to be that (In)Justice Sanders feels absolutely zero empathy for gay men and lesbians. He either can't or won't imagine that two men or two women might love each other and want to protect each other, our relationships, and our children through marriage rights, so he simply denies our common humanity through legal gay-bashing.

He frequently uses the disparaging phrase "politically correct," which is really just a right-wing euphemism for rejecting respect for people's differences.
@2 "In Justice Sanders' case, what does one do? Organize for impeachment?" He's up for reelection this November. His challenger is Charlie Wiggins. (The Stranger endorsed Wiggins in the primary.) Wiggins is currently polling about eight points behind Justice Sanders.
To be fair, the state constitution DOES deny marriage to gay couples. He was doing his duty when he upheld that and it's not fair to demonize him for refusing to turn the judicial branch into the legislative branch.

That said, the fact that he signed that opinion clearly marks him as bigoted and his personal life marks him a hypocrite. Fuck him, and here's hoping we can get someone more consistent in.
@11: It's actually an act of the state legislature (Washington's 1998 "Defense of Marriage Act") that specifically limits marriage in this state to one man and one woman.

The opinion you're talking about—the opinion Justice Sanders signed in 2006, the opinion that is central to my piece—came about because gay rights activists challenged that 1998 law's constitutionality in court.

When their challenge reached the state supreme court, the high court ruled 5-4, in 2006,that the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional.

That's different, however, than saying the state constitution "DOSE deny marriage to gay couples," as you write.

Justice Sanders and the four other justices in the majority didn't say that. They ruled that the state legislature had a legitimate interest in passing the Defense of Marriage Act, and they declined to strike the act down.
Oh, nevermind then. Fuck that guy.
Elect Charlie Wiggins!
@2 Too easy. The guy has been like this for decades, It ain't Alzheimers.

Eli, thanks for this--this destroys any lingering shred of respect I ever had for Sanders. The real problem is the rulings, not the personal hypocrisy (although lordy, there's a lot of that)--Sanders is a menace to justice.
10: Oh wow. And I voted for Wiggins in the primary, but I thought that it was a done deal when he lost. I didn't know he'd be in a run-off in the general election. I guess I'm confusing the Johnson/Rumbaugh election with this one.
"This story has been updated since its original publication."

Curious what's been updated here. Is the print version different than this version.

This is a hit piece through and through, but it's totally deserved and I love it.
@17: Just a fix to a typo. Nothing substantive.
Of the dubious factoids: Gay male unions last longer than lesbian unions? Interesting...
Care to debunk that MLK didn't have communist ties? Care to debunk the fact that communism killed more people in the 20th century than Judaism, Christianity and Islam had the previous 2000 years?

Care to make a relevant point?
Sanders is a mother...... . But a funny and smart mother...... . And mother......s like that can get themselves elected time and again.
21, Yes, how is that someone who doesn't like MLK is a bad guy? Most of the Civil Rights movement ended up creating the mess we're in today. The Communist welfare state that brought us large scale unchecked 3rd world immigration can be traced back to much to that time. I like Malcom X, even if I dont like his politics, he was a realist. King was an egalitarian dope.
Hey, I went to Highline. Small world.

Anyway, I'd just like to point something out:

It's *Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr*. He was an ordained minister, and a deeply religious man (obviously).

It's something that those on the left might not like to admit, him being (Deservedly, of course) one of their heroes. And the "Dr." in his name came from a doctorate in Philosophy (or Theology, something like that).
Can @23 provide some specific examples of

a) How the civil rights movement ended up creating the mess we're in today and what that mess is exactly

b) What a communist welfare state is, how that relates to the work of King and/or the current policies of the US government

c) Numbers on the unchecked 3rd world immigration

d) Egalitarian dope-ism by King

Please provide citations. TIA.
Justice Sanders came to speak at an event in Spokane during his last re-election campaign. He was invited by the Federalist Society - the same one that he is noted to have clashed with in the article above - which is a highly conservative law group.

During his speech, he said that he believed that representative government was bad - namely the legislature and the executive branches. The electorate, he furthered was uneducated and poorly informed and couldn't be trusted to make decisions which would affect the citizenry as a whole.

I pointed out that he was an elected official, that his election pamphlets were at his side. "What was the difference?" I asked. He said that the court was a "differently elected" body. Then, he turned and ignored me and changed the topic.

After his speech, I went up to him privately and asked, "if you believe that voters are too ignorant to be trusted with decisions involving themselves, as well as the rest of the state's population, then are you pushing to have judges in Washington appointed instead of elected?" His response: "No, because no one would ever appoint me, and the only way I sit on the court is through the election process." (He was very clear about this point - there was no interpretation needed.) Then, he furthered both of his arguments, actually, by stating that he was able to take advantage of the ignorant electorate during his first campaign against Pekelis - mostly by going into rural areas and pointing out how his name is "Sanders, like Colonel Sanders" and he had the white hair to prove it. And, Pekelis was a "foreign sounding name," and foreigners weren't to be trusted, especially not on a court. He was so proud of himself for having figured out how to dodge the real issues and exploit the very thing that he rails against time and time again.

A fairly liberal friend of mine once said, "Well, you know that Justice Sanders is OUR crazy on the bench." I'm a huge advocate for rights of the accused, but Richard Sanders will never be MY crazy on the court. I vote against him every chance I get.

Vote Wiggins.
Your teaser is misleading. At least have the guts to say he is anti-abortion, not "anti-choice." Defending the right to life of the defenseless unborn is certainly consistent with "civil rights" and "civil liberties." The pro-abortion (which is what it is--there is no "choice" involved on the child's part) stance has been, and continues to be, the height of hypocrisy on the left.
@27, while I disagree with the substance of your statement, I like that you're arguing for the formulation "pro-abortion." Which, admittedly, isn't quite accurate -- I myself am pro-abortion, but I know a number of pro-choice people who think that abortion should be, like the death penalty, a choice of absolute last resort -- but it's nice to phrase things so bluntly.

I would argue for "anti-choice" as well, because, while abortions may not consider the desires of a small clump of cells or a proto-fetus, they do at least take into account the choices of the mother; removing the right to abortions thus denies choice to two people, not just one.

I mean, if you're going to impute existential desires to a fetus, why not impute suicidal desires? Would that it had never been born, indeed. The choice of life or death always resides with the mother, never the infant, anyway. Fetuses are blind, seeking things, like roots, like climbing vines.
@25- Cheers
Hmmm. A bit of an opportunistic chameleon, this Colonel...er..."Justice" Sanders. Clearly, he'll say whatever it takes to keep himself where he wants to be. His contradictions are glaringly obvious to anyone with more than one synaptic firing at any given moment. (Sadly, this doesn't encompass the vast majority of voters...) Vote this shitbag out of here!
I know one thing about you, Baseline @ 20, 23: 1> You're white.

Nobody who would have been constrained to the underclass by Jim Crow, whose parents and grandparents have first-hand knowledge of the unconstitutional laws that the Civil Rights Movement led by MLK, has any doubt that the changes it brought about as having anything but a positive effect on our society.

The 1965 Immigration Act. And if you don’t realize we’re in a mess, I can’t help you.

See 1965.

Over 1/4th of our prisons are full of turd worlders and our welfare state is dominated by them as well.

His entire schtick was based on equality.
31, I am white, I also happen to be Irish Catholic (though not a practicing Catholic) and if you would like to give me the evidence of a more oppressed group throughout history than Irish Catholics, I'd love to see it. Before you give me the white guilt typical leftist response, realize that the Irish had been oppressed in their own country for over 1,000 years.
@ 33 - Ever hear of the Jews? You might wanna do a little research into their history.
@33 really? REALLY? Shit that happened to your ancestors 1000 years ago gives you the right to wave aside that whole little 'slavery' issue?

You're full of shit about immigration, too. I dont have time to go through why here, so I'll refer you to this week's 'econtalk' podcast.
Sanders and his horse faced girlfriends 1 and 2 need to be given the heave ho! What a clown Sanders is complete with a red face! Sanders is a pig and a racist and homophobic clown that should not be on the bench anymore. Great mind my ass some of our most brilliant thinkers were nuts case in point Sanders. We do not need a judge who will stand alone we need a judge who will who will interpret the law fairly and openly. Can you say that about Sanders? NO, he does not interpret the law farily he inteprets the law in his ass backward ways.

Vote this clown out of office and send him to Nevada where he belongs minding a brothel with his troll looking girlfriends!
@23, Well I can understand not being interested in history, but if you do get interested, read about MLK. He was a pretty great man, fighting an impossible thing and trying to eloquently raise a cause. Fighting all that while being as peaceful as possible isn't the 'fake' thing to do, it's the hard thing to do. I mean just read his fucking letters from prison dude they should give you some perspective.

He isn't the best dude in history but I am gonna say it, If you hate MLK you are a dick, there are just millions of other people to hate on first. Ghandi and Mother Tereasa aren't as good as their posthumous image but to hate on them is kinda warped.
LOL disclosure: I was at that party in Vancouver, and also met and liked Charlie Wiggins that night. (Wiggins was driving a bargain Korean brand car) One of the hosts was us Washington Stonewall Democrats, and Labor Bank provided jugs of top shelf booze.
I'm inclined to "hold my nose" and vote for Sanders because we desperately need an advocate for the rights of the accused, as unpopular as that is. Convictions of innocent people have turned out to be an everyday occurrance and vigilante hysteria about drugs and sex have filled the prisons to bursting. The police are almost never held accountable for even the most outrageous misconduct.
What's Charlie Wiggins' record on the rights of defendants, did I miss any interviews on the subject?


@Basehead -- You can dislike MLK without being a racist. You can dislike Ghandi without being anti-Indian. You can dislike Jesus without being anti-Christian. You can dislike Moses without being anti-Jewish. You can dislike Superman without being anti-Krypton. You can dislike leprechauns without being anti-Lucky Charms.

I give you permission.

You're not going to convince anyone here to hate black people or turd worlders or to support white pride or any of that. You just aren't. We're not going to convince you you sound ignorant and your facts / history are full of willful ignorance. We just aren't.

So please take my permission to hate whomever you want and to hold whatever complicated opinions about whatever subject you want.

My permission is also an open invitation to shut the fuck up about your stupid opinions. If you were so smart or so right, your brilliance would shine through even without picking fights or trolling.
34, I have heard of them, because whenever I meet one of them they can’t shut the fuck up about being Jewish. And all you did is mention Jewish oppression, care to point out all the oppression they faced outside of the “Holocaust”? How have Jews been more oppressed than Catholics? I’m not against believing that, but please tell me how.

35, I wasn’t calling out anything that happened 1000 years ago, I pointed out that the Irish have been oppressed for over 1000 years. If you wanna prove to me that the Irish weren’t oppressed in their own country from the 9th Century until the 20th Century, please show me. My relatives were red legs in Barbados and they were starved to death in the Irish Holocaust, apologize, you fuck!

41, Another leftist who’s irony leaves me with lulz. Gandhi? You realize he was a racist who believed in racial homogeny?
@43 - Ghandi wore a diaper. Plus, if he were so smart, he wouldn't be dead.
@43 If you don't have to prove your bullshit statements, neither should anyone else.

In a troll thread statements are taken as gospel truth. You smell of ham.
45, you haven't debunked a word that I've typed.
No, clown, it is not our job to disprove the shit you say, it's your job to prove it. That is how argument works.
Other than the Holocoust? I don't know ......how about a thousand years of Eastern European Pogroms dipshit. I am also an non jewish irish catholic but please quit referencing yourself as such as your an embarrassment.
Dexter. Dexter, if only you were real. A real superhero. Is all that is needed.
I wish more of the people commenting, and the author of the piece, would actually read all of Justice Sanders' opinions. If you think any opponent of his, or any other member of the current court, is going to stand up for the civil and economic rights of the citizens of Washington as much as he has, you are deluded.

Part of the problem is most readers are incredibly ignorant of the law and have no context or understanding of the overall opinion those quotes are taken from. It is ironic that, on one hand, the article quotes Judge Canova stating he doesn't support direct election of Supreme Court judges because it is so difficult to get accurate information about candidates, but then the article proceeds to provide nothing but inaccurate information about Justice Sanders.

For example, the AK47 story- there is nothing under Washington law that prohibits carrying a firearm in the open. There are laws that prevent people from carrying concealed without a valid permit. The three-strikes law poses a threat to put offenders away for life for relatively minor offenses.

I, for one, enjoy having a justice so vilified by the prosecutor's office (the same prosecutor who will blindly decline to file charges against cops that beat the crap out of suspects or shoot innocent people) that they have a dartboard of him.

It is also refreshing to see a justice so willing to talk to the press. Go interview any of the other eight justices and see if you will get answers as honest and forthright as Justice Sanders. Unlikely. And it is refreshing to see a justice be so open about where his support comes from. Do you think the other eight justices don't receive gobs of money from special interests? Of course they do, they just keep quiet about it but their prejudices are clearly evident in their voting records.

I met Justice Sanders once in 2001 during a law school event. At the time, the vast majority of the population was eager to enact laws such as the Patriot Act to enable the government to more easily spy on its citizens. Justice Sanders spoke at our school and took the, at the time, very unpopular stance against these laws. At a luncheon after, I asked how someone like him was able to get elected in a state like Washington. "Simple," he said. "Everyone west of the mountains complains I'm a Conservative so everyone on the east side of the mountains votes for me. Everyone on the east side of the mountains complains I'm a Liberal, so everyone of the west side of the mountains votes for me."

If you believe you can determine the man's intellectual philosophy based on a handful of opinions, or think that his votes are calculated to curry favor from the Tea Party, they are not. Right now there are those in the Tea Party bitching about how he doesn't support the government's ability to censor and impose a tighter law enforcement grip on its citizens.

Finally, as a pretty open minded straight guy, I was always curious why there was a significant segment of the gay/lesbian population (maybe it is just the more vocal segment) that seems so willing and eager to pry into someone's personal life, particularly sexual life, and take such glee in destroying them. If there was a law passed tomorrow that legalized gay marriage, and a person or group opposed to that law were to appeal it to the supreme court, I have no doubt Justice Sanders would stand to protect that law legalizing gay marriage.

When I think of all the things he has voted against, such as DUI checkpoints, more warrentless searches by law enforcement, greater abuse by law enforcement, government taking your personal and real property without adequate notice or ability to object, greater intrusion into every aspect of your lives, etc., that one vote seems to be fairly insignificant given same sex couple have the same rights under Washington law as married couples do under the current domestic partnership laws, minus the title "married".

If you think that somehow removing Justice Sanders from office would somehow bestow the label "married" onto a same-sex couple, and if you wish to risk all those things I mentioned above in exchange for that false promise, by all means, vote him out of office.
Total smear and a bit two-faced on The Stranger's part. 90% of this information was known 6 years ago when The Stranger endorsed Sanders and said he was (something like) one of the top 5 people The Stranger would like to have 3 drinks with.
Total smear and a bit two-faced on The Stranger's part. 90% of this information was known 6 years ago when The Stranger endorsed Sanders and said he was (something like) one of the top 5 people The Stranger would like to have 3 drinks with.

I appreciate where you're coming from. I often disagree with Stranger endorsements and I am often frustrated by their inability to see the obvious in the candidates they campaign against.

That said, there really is no defense for the opinion Justice Sanders signed. It is offensive. It twists and turns over itself to avoid doing the unpopular work an appointed Supreme Court would have been able to do.

"Let the Legislature protect civil rights" is not an acceptable position for the Court.

The Stranger readership and the Stranger editors feel strongly enough about this issue and this opinion to warrant this feature and this article.

Plus, the article isn't entirely a hit piece. It highlights a strange and interesting man the Stranger readership deserves to know more about.
Enough is enough--vote for charlie Wiggins and get some honesty in the courts!
Enough is enough--vote for charlie Wiggins and get some honesty in the courts!
Being a contrarian is not a qualification for a Supreme Court Justice.

While there are positions that I agree on with Justice Sanders, his inability to craft working majorities to match those opinions calls into question his value as a Justice.

He has some serious ethical issues that are an embarrassment to the judicial branch, and his temperament, especially off the bench, is increasingly troubling.

The fact that he will go to a Democratic convention and talk about why Democrats should support him (marijuana), and then keynote a Tea Party event, reeks of political pandering.

Plain and simple - Justice Sanders has an agenda. He's pro-legalization of marijuana. He's pro-pedophile. He's anti-government. He's anti-choice. He's anti-gay. He doesn't come to the bench with an open mind to review cases coming before him based on precedent and the Constitution, he is prepared in many cases to rule before even reading the legal argument behind either position.

And that is the only thing that has been consistent about Justice Richard Sanders. He claims to be a libertarian, but in all reality, he is a conservative.

What makes his personal life subject to scrutiny is the fact - fact - that he signed onto an opinion that was so hateful, and so discriminatory towards gays, with the rational based in part on polygamy, gay parents being sub-standard, and gay relationships being short-term and riddled with philandering. The opinion does not read "I believe this, and Justice Sanders agrees with me on this only", it reads "We believe this." Justice Sanders now is trying to wiggle out of the opinion, citing Vance and Grant County II, yet this would be the first time he has had a separate opinion, but been unwilling to write his own. He's very prolific.

Charlie Wiggins is an experienced appellate attorney, for both civil and criminal appeals. His history is not from the prosecutor's office, and includes a brief stint on the Court of Appeals. He has the qualifications, he has the temperament, and the judgment to not judge cases before they come before him. Charlie Wiggins as Justice Wiggins would help clean the Supreme Court of the stain that Justice Sanders has left.
@43 - You're joking, right? Can anyone really be so utterly ignorant about world history?

How about the Diaspora, the Crusades, Roman enslavement/mass murder, forced exile from many European countries, etc, ad nauseam.

How about the Black Death? It had to be a punishment from God, so thought the people of the time. Solution? Let's torture and murder the Jews! That'll appease an angry God! This theme is repeated over and over again throughout the Jew's history.

Do a little reading on the subject. I'm not Jewish but I have a brain and a passion for history. That's all it takes. Go. Learn.
No, but see, because the Irish have been mistreated, it means that any Irish person can legitimately dismiss any accusations of oppression or, really, any criticism directed at anything you like. DUH.

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