Wiggins: Bow tied and official.
  • E.S.
  • Wiggins: Bow tied and official.
A state supreme court inauguration, it turns out, is a rather pleasant way to spend a mid-recession morning.

Bagpipes. Hopeful speeches. Gilded curtains and carved wood ceilings. Seals of the state everywhere. Paeans to justice and equality on everyone's lips. All that luxury and optimism (plus the conspicuous absence of talk about budgets soaked in red ink) may have been part of the reason that just about every power player in the state turned out this morning to see the swearing in of returning Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, returning Justice James Johnson, and brand new Justice Charlie Wiggins—who narrowly defeated former Justice Richard B. Sanders this fall after a heated election campaign.

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Governor Christine Gregoire was in the front row, as was Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna (he introduced Justice Johnson, the court's most conservative member). Federal and state judges from all over Washington were on hand. Secretary of State Sam Reed sat near Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. And in a back row: former U.S. Senator and current redistricting commission member Slade Gorton.

Amid all the talk about equal justice under the law—former president of the Washington State Bar Association Salvador Mungia made sure the audience knew he considered gays and lesbians among those who deserve equal justice—it was hard to ignore the fact that the two returning justices, Madsen and Johnson, voted to uphold the state's ban on gay marriage in 2006. Sanders voted with them, and Wiggins, though his position on gay marriage during the campaign was a little blurry, seems to think that the recent Prop 8 ruling makes it hard for state courts to keep upholding gay marriage bans (as ours did in 2006).

Noted during this morning's ceremony: Johnson was the only person to bring his own Bible to the swearing in, and to unilaterally add "so help me God" to the otherwise non-religious swearing in text. Madsen gave big hugs to every member of the court, conservative and liberal alike. And Wiggins, though clearly a stark contrast to Sanders, was carrying on at least one Sanders tradition. He sported a giant gold bow tie.