Cutting four jobs in state government might not seem
like it would be a tremendous cost savings to taxpayers.
But, what if these are the highest paid elected state
employees (along with the governor) in Washington?
Three Republican state senators have introduced a bill in
Olympia that would cut the state’s supreme court from nine justices
to five, the Associated Press
reported last week.
The measure, introduced Wednesday, would require the current
nine justices to draw straws. The four who draw the shortest straws
“shall be terminated, and those judges shall not serve the
remainder of their respective unexpired terms.”
Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane points out the
state’s constitution only mandates we have five justices.
But the effort comes (suspiciously) following the high court’s
ruling that voter-approved initiatives requiring the legislature to
have a supermajority to pass tax increases is unconstitutional.
More from AP:
Supreme Court justices earn more than $164,000 a year.
Baumgartner said that by reducing the court, you also reduce
salaries that need to be paid to their clerks and other
“There’s a lot of school teachers you could hire with these
salaries,” he said.
Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Janea Holmquist Newbry of
Moses Lake have signed on to the bill, a well.
Just doing the straight math here: that would be a savings of
$656,000 a year. Do you think this is a good idea in any way or
perhaps a veiled effort to get back at the court?
On the Washington state supreme court, you’ve gotta step
aside at 75. And with Justice Gerry Alexander
retiring at the end of this year, it was time for Gov. Chris
Gregoire to appoint a temporary justice until the next
Tuesday, she chose Steven Gonzalez, a King County Superior Court
judge and former federal prosecutor.
“It has been a great honor to serve on the state
superior court for the last ten years. I thank Governor
Gregoire for the opportunity to now serve on the State Supreme
Court,” Gonzalez said in a news release. “I have known and
admired Justice Alexander for twenty years, and it is a privilege
to follow in his footsteps with his colleagues on the Supreme
Gov. Locke appointed Gonzalez to the King County Superior
Court in March 2002 and voters elected him that fall. He was
re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
From 1997 to 2002, Gonzalez was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in
the state’s Western District. Assigned to the major crimes
division, his work included the notable case of U.S. v.
Ressam, in which Ahmed Ressam was tried after being
captured in Port Angeles in 1999 en route to Los Angeles, where he
planned to detonate a bomb at the International Airport. Gonzalez
gave the prosecution’s opening statement and examined nearly 70
witnesses. He also worked in the City of Seattle Attorney’s Office
from 1996 to 1997 as a trial attorney in the domestic violence
unit. Before that, he practiced business and civil law with the
firm Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson from 1991 to 1996.
“Judge Gonzalez is a highly regarded and experienced trial
court judge, a former federal prosecutor and an acknowledged leader
in improving access to justice for all in Washington,” said
Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. “Judge
Gonzalez will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court and I
am confident he will continue to serve the public with great energy
Gonzalez chairs the Washington State Access to Justice Board,
a position to which he was appointed by former Chief Justice
Alexander. He co-chairs the Race and Criminal Justice System Task
Force. From 2006 to 2010 he co-chaired the Court Security Committee
for the State of Washington. The Washington State Bar Association
recently presented the 2011 Outstanding Judge of the Year Award to
Gonzalez, along with Judge Mary Yu, citing their work
on promoting equal access to the courts, including
developing helpful materials for self-represented persons.
In addition to his impressive judicial background, Gonzalez
has worked in the community for the past 20 years. He served on the
Board of Directors of El Centro de la Raza and on the steering
committee of the Northwest Minority Job Fair. Before becoming a
judge, he volunteered as a pro bono attorney for the Northwest
Immigrant Rights Project.
Gonzalez earned his J.D. from the University of California at
Berkley’s law school and was admitted to the Washington state bar
in 1991. He graduated from Pitzer College, a member of the
Claremont Colleges, with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and studied
abroad in undergraduate and advanced studies in Japan and China. In
May 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of law from the
Gonzaga University Law School, where he gave the commencement
Gonzalez will begin to serve on the Supreme Court in Jan.
2012. He is married to Michelle Gonzalez, assistant dean at the
University of Washington Law School, and they reside with their two
children in Seattle.
Turns out Washington’s not the only state where issues
over medical marijuana are being litigated. The American
Civil Liberties Union earlier this month
filed an appeal to a federal judge’s decision to throw out a
Michigan case of a medical marijuana patient fired from Wal-Mart
for his use of the drug.
In January, we covered our
state supreme court’s hearing on a similar case in which a
woman was fired from Teletech in East Bremerton for using medical
marijuana to relieve migraine headaches. The woman is authorized
under law to use medical marijuana.
She sued; her case was thrown out at the county and court of
appeals level and it was taken for review by the state’s highest
court. We are still awaiting their opinion.
Here’s the press release from the ACLU:
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The American Civil Liberties Union today said
it will appeal a decision by a federal judge to dismiss its lawsuit
filed in June against Wal-Mart and the manager of its Battle Creek,
Michigan store for wrongfully firing an employee for using medical
marijuana in accordance with state law. The patient, Joseph Casias,
used marijuana to treat the painful symptoms of an inoperable brain
tumor and cancer.
Michigan voters in 2008 passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana
Act, which provides protection for the medical use of marijuana
under state law. But in a 20-page ruling today, U.S. District Court
Judge Robert J. Jonker said the law doesn’t mandate that businesses
like Wal-Mart make accommodations for employees like Casias, the
Battle Creek, Michigan Wal-Mart’s 2008 Associate of the Year who
was fired from his job at the store for testing positive for
marijuana, despite being legally registered to use the drug. In
accordance with the law, Casias never ingested marijuana while at
work and never worked while under the influence of marijuana.
The ACLU will appeal today’s decision to the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Benham, a four-term justice on the Georgia Supreme Court, is a
trailblazing judge whose record reflects his belief that public
service can highlight and help correct injustices — such broken
spokes — in communities.
Benham, here in Bremerton Saturday to speak before a crowd at
the local NAACP chapter’s annual freedom fund event, broke many
barriers: He was the first African American to establish his own
law practice in his home county. First to be elected as a court of
appeals judge. And then the first to serve on Georgia’s highest
Now 63, Benham leads by example. You
name it, he serves on the board. He started a “comprehensive
legal education program,” which has helped more than 200 minority
students go to law school. He’s been honored with more than 400
awards, and the State Bar of Georgia’s community service award
bears his name. Ebony Magazine named him one of the 100 most
influential blacks in America.
The result of a little networking last year brought Benham to
Bremerton NAACP Chapter president Joan Ferebee and second vice
president Denita Harden-Patton met Benham at the NAACP’s centennial
celebration in New York in February 2009. Ferebee and the judge
exchanged cards at that time.
Early this year, Ferebee asked if he’d come — and Benham
Ferebee said in no uncertain terms that the justice is the cream
of the crop in terms of guests they’ve hosted.
“He ranks at the top,” she said.
Benham will speak at 7 p.m. tonight at the Comfort Inn and
Suites Olympic Ballroom, 5640 Kitsap Way. Tickets are $50 for
adults and $25 for youth ages six to 13. The dinner also includes
dinner and dancing.
It was a shot in the dark, recalls Jeff Tolman, of longtime
Poulsbo firm Tolman and Kirk. But after some letters of
correspondence, Stevens agreed to come, Tolman said.
The lawyers invited Stevens to receive their “Small Town Lawyer
Made Good,” award. Though Stevens cut his teeth as an attorney in
not-small Chicago, the cadre of Poulsbo lawyers gave the award to
* a small town lawyer, or
* Supreme Court justices
And so the bow-tied, horn rimmed justice flew to Seattle with
his wife, and Tolman, his law partner Mike Kirk, and now-Kitsap
County Superior Court Judge Jay Roof went to the airport to pick
him up. There was no security — they drove a suburban and whisked
him to Big Valley Road for a stay at Manor Farm.
Roof recalled Stevens as being a “very gracious man,” who was
“willing to come out to the hinterlands.”
“He seemed to be the type of person that could understand
justice could occur in rural areas,” Roof said.
They took Stevens for a sailboat ride on Puget Sound before
Stevens received the award before a packed 300-room Sons of Norway
Justice Stevens said he’d expected a town that was drying up and
empty, Tolman recalled. Instead, he said that “Poulsbo is a
postcard on the water.” It was a well received remark.
“If you wanna show small town lawyers in country you value
them,” Tolman said of Stevens’ appearance, “What a wonderful way to
Tolman added that only about three years later, the same award
was given to Justice Antonin Scalia, who also came to Poulsbo.
“During my clerkship interview with Justice Stevens, we talked
about our hometowns. When I mentioned that I had grown up in a
small town near Seattle, he leapt from his chair and pulled a
plaque off the wall. It read: “Small Town Lawyer of the Year:
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.” It had been given to him a
few years before by the bar association of Poulsbo, Wash.
At the time, I was puzzled that the award was so meaningful to
him. I shouldn’t have been. Although Justice Stevens has always
practiced law at the highest levels of the profession, his modesty
would make him feel right at home in a place like Poulsbo. He may
not have actually been a small town lawyer, but he was definitely a