Two of the four state Supreme Court judges up for re-election have attracted a couple of colorful challengers. And while these two characters have spiced up the race, voters should stick with substance and keep the incumbents.
Stephens v Scannell
Justice Debra Stephens is the only current justice who has roots in Eastern Washington, having grown up in Spokane and graduating from Gonzaga University. This allows her to bring a unique perspective to the court, which is appreciated by those of us living east of the Cascades.
She is finishing up her first six-year term and has proven herself to be thoughtful and fair. She said she believes the court should be grounded in common sense, and has tried to apply that mindset in her opinions. Stephens recently penned the complex, 79-page McCleary decision that holds the Legislature in contempt for failing to fund basic education. Stephens, a former school board director, has an understanding of school financing and tackled this monstrous project with thoroughness and dedication.
She is challenged by John “Zamboni” Scannell, a disbarred lawyer who, on the outside chance that he wins this election, would not be allowed to serve. Gov. Jay Inslee likely would then have to appoint a new justice, which probably would be Stephens.
It would be best if this potential judicial mess never happens and Stephens is re-elected from the start. She deserves another run.
Johnson v Yoon
Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson is the longest-serving justice on the state Supreme Court, serving since 1991. That kind of experience is invaluable. He is a charitable, attentive man who has earned the respect of his colleagues and others in the judicial system. He has a reputation for being impartial, being able to gather political endorsements from both Republicans and Democrats.
Johnson’s challenger, Eddie Yoon, was the first Korean attorney in the Pacific Northwest and a former assistant prosecutor for Tacoma. He now teaches law much of the time at a prestigious women’s college in South Korea, but said he would live in Olympia full-time if elected.
He is a lively character who suggested the Supreme Court needs one well rounded member who has lived a full life, and not a “cool cucumber” as he likes to call Johnson.
If elected, he likely would be an entertaining addition to the bench, but that is not what we need. His experience for the job can’t compare to Johnson’s.
In the other races for state Supreme Court, Justice Mary Yu and Mary Fairhurst are running unopposed, so keeping their jobs is a lock.
Stephens and Johnson also should be locked in, even though they have opposition on the ballot.