Tag Archives: Richard Sanders

Incoming court justice predicts water will be an issue

Who would have guessed that, throughout the history of our state, a Kitsap County resident has never served as a State Supreme Court justice?

Charlie Wiggins of Bainbridge Island, Washington's next Supreme Court justice
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

That’s been true until now, that is, since Bainbridge Island attorney Charlie Wiggins is about to replace Justice Richard Sanders on the state’s high court.

That’s just one tidbit in a fascinating story written about Wiggins by reporter Tristan Baurick in Monday’s Kitsap Sun. In his blog, Bainbridge Conversation, Tristan also revealed how a Kitsap resident years ago became a Supreme Court justice — but only after moving to Tacoma, so he didn’t count.

It’s too early to know how Wiggins’ presence will change the Supreme Court, but most observers expect him to take positions to the left of Sanders, who is generally viewed as either a Libertarian or a staunch conservative.

Tristan quoted Court of Appeals judges who have worked with Wiggins. They said he is well respected in legal circles but remains largely unknown to the public.

Retired judge Elaine Houghton: “He writes eloquent and clearly — something we judges aspire to. His work is well-regarded because he finds the essence of the law and espouses it very easily.”

University of Washington law professor Bill Anderson: “You can’t peg him as an activist or nonactivist judge, or as a liberal or conservative. I don’t think he’ll blaze any trails in any direction. I think he’ll just be a professional judge. Consistent, honorable, objective.”

One thing I found interesting was Wiggins’ predictions about issues that could come before the court in the future. His lists water because of its limited supplies.

“With climate change,” Wiggins told our reporter, “water is just going to be an incredibly precious resource.”

In trying to judge how Wiggins might shift the court, I read several of his articles written for legal publications. For a lawyer, his writing can be engaging, especially when dealing with historical issues. Check out “The Battle for the Tidelands in the Constitutional Convention,” which he wrote for the Washington State Bar Association.