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Lawyer plans run for high court seat

Sun., Feb. 21, 2010

West Side attorney will challenge Sanders

SEATTLE – An attorney from Bainbridge Island says he’ll try to unseat Washington state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders because the judge sides too often with criminal defendants and has failed to uphold ethical standards.

Charlie Wiggins, 62, has filed papers with the state Public Disclosure Commission and is trying to raise $300,000 to $500,000 to challenge Sanders, one of three justices who face re-election this year. The formal filing date isn’t until June.

Wiggins, who has already created a campaign Web site, has been an attorney for more than 33 years. He told the Seattle Times that he found he was well-suited to serve as an appellate judge when he briefly served on the state Court of Appeals in Tacoma in 1995. Wiggins was appointed to the seat but lost in an election that year.

Wiggins has also served as a substitute judge in King and Jefferson counties, handling criminal and civil cases, and helped oversee bar disciplinary cases. He said he has handled appellate cases in every state appeals court, covering all varieties of the law.

Sanders has served on the state high court since 1995 and was admonished in 2005 by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for visiting detainees at a state sex-offender treatment center, including some patients who had cases pending before the court. Nine lower-court judges sitting in as state Supreme Court justices pro tem unanimously upheld that admonishment.

Last year, the state Supreme Court withdrew a landmark public records ruling after the losing party, King County, complained that Sanders stood to gain personally from his opinion in the case.

King County’s lawyers argued that Sanders, who wrote the majority opinion, had a conflict of interest because he didn’t disclose that the ruling affected a public-disclosure lawsuit he filed in Thurston County in 2005 against the state attorney general. Sanders withdrew from the public-records case, which has been reargued.

The admonishment was an injustice, Sanders insisted, and judges should be familiar with institutions where people are sent. In the public-records case, he said, he did his job and wrote a great opinion that did not benefit him.

Concerning criminal cases, Sanders said he has stood for individual rights of all kinds, including those of property owners.


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