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Supreme Court Justice Bridge to step down at end of the year…

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge said a few minutes ago that she'll step down from the state Supreme Court at the end of the year to serve as president of the Center for Children and Youth Justice, a non-profit group.

The Seattle-based center, founded by Bridge in February 2006, has been chosen to lead juvenile justice reform projects backed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The foundation said Friday that it plans to spend $10 million in pilot programs in six Washington counties -- including Spokane -- over the next 5 years.

"There's lots of stuff to do, and I'm not getting any younger," Bridge, 62, said in an interview.

The governor will appoint a replacement, who would then have to run for election to continue serving. Bridges was elected to a 6-year term in November 2002.

In a possible preview of the re-election campaign that Bridge would have faced, the Building Industry Association of Washington last September bankrolled a hard-hitting TV ad that blasted Chief Justice Gerry Alexander for not repudiating Bridge after she was arrested in 2003 for drunken driving.

"Alexander backs Bridge, despite her driving drunk with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit," intoned the radio ad’s announcer, over a picture of a repentant-looking chief justice. "Gary Alexander: Justice for whom?" (In an expensive race for both sides, Alexander beat property-rights attorney John Groen.)

"My personal opinion on that is that she should have resigned after that occurred," said BIAW executive vice president Tom McCabe. "She was massively drunk. We're not talking about somebody who had a cocktail."

The builders' group feels that Bridge is out of touch with most Washingtonians on open government and property-rights cases, particularly eminent domain cases, McCabe said.

Had Bridge run again, he said, he's not sure if the incident would have drawn ads again. News coverage of the race would likely raise the issue anyway, he said.

"Certainly that should have been on her mind," McCabe said.

Bridge, who entered a two-year counseling program and had an ignition interlock installed in her car in a deferred prosecution agreement, said that the ad played no role in her decision not to run again.

"No, it didn't," she said during a break in a juvenile justice meeting Friday. "You know, it saddens me that that sort of thing has injected itself into judicial campaigns...But no, it has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with this center and the time for me to really work on what has been a passion of mine for many, many years now and try and do that full-bore in the last act."

After a decade as a superior court judge in King County, Bridge was appointed to the high court in 1999 by then-Gov. Gary Locke. She's served on a long list of groups involved with children and families, including a Supreme Court commission on foster car, a domestic violence project, and the state Becca Task Force, which deals with truancy prevention.

"For juvenile justice, the kids who end up breaking the law, we're supposed to be rehabilitating them," she said. "We have really special responsibilities for these kids, and we need to do it right."

NOTE: This post has been updated several times over the past hour.

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