State Supreme Court justices Richard Sanders and James Johnson inflamed racial tensions with their remarks that African Americans are overrepresented in the state prison system because they commit more crimes. How disappointing these two legal minds were unable to offer more thoughtful, nuanced views about racial disparities in the criminal-justice system. African Americans make up 4 percent of the state population and 20 percent of state prisoners. An impressive body of evidence links the disproportionate numbers to drug-enforcement policies, poverty and racial biases throughout society.
Sanders and Johnson have worked in the judicial system long enough to be informed by these disparities and to know better. They missed by a wide mark an opportunity to lead a broader and smarter discussion.
This page takes the unusual step of withdrawing its endorsement of Sanders. The Seattle Times now supports lawyer Charlie Wiggins, who was a close call in our primary endorsement. We said then that Wiggins was fully qualified to serve on the bench and be a strong voice pushing back against government. At the time, Sanders' support for state public-disclosure laws cinched his endorsement.
But Sanders' latest remarks fall upon a trash heap of cringe-worthy conduct — the latest for ruling in a public-records case that could have affected a case of his own. In 2008, he called U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey a "tyrant" to his face. Decades ago, Sanders dressed as a Nazi as a Halloween prank.
No mention of Sanders' most appalling hypocrisy.