Sanders is worth retaining

Controversy is no stranger to state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders.

In 15 years on the state’s highest court, he has written more dissenting opinions than majority opinions. His strong libertarian streak has often made him a lone dissenter, and frequently in defense of the rights of violent criminals.

That’s made him a frequent target of prosecutors and police, who argue he blatantly overlooks the rights of victims.

Sanders makes no apologies for following his libertarian compass, and says individual rights are a constitutional principle that mustn’t be compromised.

Sanders brings a healthy perspective to the nine-member court, one that no doubt has made his collegues think harder and longer at times about important points. It’s a perspective worth keeping. The court should reflect a range of legitimate legal approaches.

We endorse Sanders’ re-election bid.

It’s a close call, however. Sanders’ challenger, Bainbridge Island attorney Charlie Wiggins, is a highly qualified candidate who we believe would serve well if elected. He has pertinent judicial experience, having been appointed to the state Court of Appeals, where he served for several months before losing at the polls. He currently serves as a Superior Court substitute judge.

He has worked in private practice for 33 years, and served as a disciplinary hearing officer for the state Bar Association.

Wiggins is highly critical of Sanders’ record, charging that the “extreme pattern” of Sanders’ dissents show he isn’t impartial, but that he frequently begins with a result in mind that fits his ideology, then rationalizes his way to a decision.

Sanders counters that if that’s true, it’s true of everyone on the court at times. He says that he had changed his position in the past after doing further research.

“The goal here,” he says, “is to recognize and protect people’s rights, and I’m going to do that whether my colleagues agree or not.”