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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Washington Supreme Court

WA Supreme Court decision on Yates

OLYMPIA — The Washington Supreme Court handed serial killer Robert Yates what could be a pyrrhic victory in his appeal of his 408-year sentence for 13 murders and one attempted murder.

Yes, the court said in a 7-2 ruling, the two 20-year-sentences for a pair of 1975 murders were incorrectly calculated. But given that you aren't getting out of prison in this lifetime, anyway, it's essentially no harm, no foul, case dismissed.

As part of his agreement that allowed him to escape the death penalty, Yates agreed that if he challenged his sentence, Spokane County could file the one murder charge it was holding back, and seek the death penalty if it got a conviction on that murder. That didn't keep him from appealing his sentence, the Supreme Court said, but it also means Spokane County could now file that case and seek the death penalty.

But Yates already has been sentenced to death for two murders in Pierce County, and Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker said he's not sure Spokane would file that charge and give him another 10 to 15 years of appeals.

Full story can be found here. To read the court's decision on Yates's appeal, technically known as a personal restraint petition, click here.

Stephens ‘most influential’ on high court

OLYMPIA — Justice Debra Stephens, the Washington Supreme Court's newest member, is also its most influential, a conservative think tank says.

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation gave Stephens, the first woman from Eastern Washington to serve on the state's highest court, its first-ever ranking of most influential.

The group based that on the number of majority decisions written, the number of times she's been in the majority, the number of votes that support the opinions she's written, and the number of times she's been the key vote in close cases.

Writing in the group's Supreme Court of Washington Blog, Michael Reitz said that last year, the court had 22 cases that were decided 5-4. Stephens wrote six of those opinions, the most of any justice. and she was in the majority 75 percent of the time, also more than any justice.

Supreme Court ponders: Who is the state?

OLYMPIA — The federal lawsuit in Florida over health care reform raises many interesting questions about state’s rights and federal mandates. But it also sparked some interesting debates today in the Washington Supreme Court over who represents the state in a legal dispute, and even, what is the state.

Read today’s report on City of Seattle v. Rob McKenna by clicking here.

Wiggins takes lead, has voting trends on his side

Former Appeals Court Judge Charlie Wiggins took a narrow lead over incumbent Justice Richard Sanders in Washington’s tight Supreme Court race Tuesday afternoon.
An analysis of voting patterns suggests Wiggins will finish ahead of Sanders and take his place on the state’s highest court when all remaining ballots are counted.
Sanders, an outspoken jurist with libertarian leanings, was first elected to the state’s highest court in 1995 and re-elected twice since. He has held a narrow lead since the Election Night.
But he has consistently trailed in King County, which has about one-third of the state’s voters, and a handful of other counties, mostly west of the Cascades. On Tuesday, King County tabulated about 45,000 of its outstanding ballots, and Wiggins inched ahead. Thirteen other counties also added to their totals, but Wiggins ended the night with a lead of about 3,600 votes.

Wiggins takes lead…can he keep it?

Challenger Charlie Wiggins has taken the lead of about 3,500 votes over Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders on the strength of King County ballots tabulated at 4:30 p.m. Pierce and several other counties,  where Sanders has been ahead since election night, are scheduled to report at 5 p.m. or slightly later.

Stay tuned.

Supremes schedule R-71 hearing

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 28 whether the names on ballot measure petitions are public records.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office announced this afternoon that the date has been set on a case that is getting national attention because it involves a series of First Amendment and public records issues.

The information at the heart of the case are the names and addresses on the petitions to put Referendum 71 on last fall’s ballot. After the Legslature expanded rights for same-sex couples last spring, opponents gathered signatures to let voters overturn the bill. Supporters of gay rights requested the names under the state’s public records law, but referendum sponsors objected, saying the signers could be subjected to harassment.

Although the state has previously released the names from initiative and referendum campaigns, judges have disagreed over whether the names in this case are public records. Most recently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said they are, but that ruling is on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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