Controversial former justice Richard Sanders vies for return to State Supreme Court

Richard Sanders, who spent 15 contentious years on the Washington State Supreme Court before narrowly losing a reelection bid in 2010, is attempting a comeback.

 “My voice isn’t there anymore,” said Sanders.  “It would be a better court if I was there.”

The self-professed libertarian says he strongly disagrees with the direction the court has taken since his absence, and sees this year’s open seat as a chance to get his old job back. 

“I see decisions coming down which I think are skewed in favor the government,” said Sanders. 

Sanders’ tenure on the court was marked by controversy. Early on, he got flak for attending a pro-life rally; in 2003, he was criticized for speaking with sex offenders about their cases; towards the end of his time on the court, he was harshly criticized for calling George W. Bush’s last Attorney General Michael Mukasey a tyrant.

“There’s been a lot of attacks again me, I guess that’s true,” said Sanders.  “I sat on the court trying to do the best I could to make sure the rights of everybody were protected, and that made some people mad.”

Among Sanders’ critics are those who say he sided with criminals defendants nearly all of the time. 

“I was pro-defending the rights of the individual,” he said.  “Once they got through the door of the court and we heard their case on the merits, every case was individual, every case deserved to be heard on the merits.”  

Many attribute Sanders’ 2010 loss to a controversial comment he made just weeks before the election, saying that African-Americans are more represented in the prison system because they commit more crimes. 

“I think my remarks were taken out of context and misunderstood,” he said.    “The question arose: ‘is the judiciary a racist institution?’  I serve on the judiciary, I’ve practiced before the judiciary as a private lawyer before I was on the court, and I don’t think the judiciary is a racist institution.”

Sanders said the public debate that existed between justices when he was on the court was healthy. 

“We knew what the issues were when I was there, and we did battle,” he said. 

There are three other people running for the open Supreme Court seat:  former Piece County Executive John Ladenburg, King County Superior