Races for the State Supreme Court are usually low-key affairs. Many voters overlook them on the ballot as much of the time there is either only one person running or the candidates are unknown.
AGC recommends that its members take a look at these races, and has made endorsements in all three Supreme Court races on the ballot this year (see below).
AGC is participating in the Supreme Court races because judicial decisions can have just as much impact – good or bad – on the construction industry as legislative decisions. For example, the Avundes decision resulted in many seasonal workers being eligible to receive more in workers’ comp benefits than they earned in wages while working. The Cockle decision mandated that employer contributions to health care benefits must be included in the wage calculation for workers’ comp benefits. Both the Avundes and Cockle decisions represented hundreds of millions of dollars in impact on employers. And then there is the Mike M. Johnson decision, the controversial case that binds contractors to the strict notice and documentation requirements of the contract for change-order requests.
A coordinated recruitment effort has helped make 2016 the first year in recent memory that all three justices up for re-election are facing challengers. In every state Supreme Court election since at least the 1990s, at least one of the justices facing re-election has run unopposed.
NOTE that only one of the races will appear on the primary ballot (already in your mailbox) because it has three candidates (Madsen, Zempel and Scannell). The two finalists from that primary and the other two races will be on the November ballot.
A panel of AGC contractor and attorney members interviewed all three incumbents and the three main challengers, and endorsed the following candidates:
Justice Mary Yu: Justice Yu is the only incumbent endorsed by AGC. She was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2014 after serving as a King County trial court judge for over 14 years. She was subsequently elected to a two year term and is now running for a full term. In 2014, Justice Yu was selected by the Washington State Association for Justice as Judge of the Year. In 2013, the Municipal League Foundation named her “Public Official of the Year.” Before becoming a judge, Justice Yu served as Deputy Chief of Staff to King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and as a deputy in the Criminal and Civil Divisions. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School (visit her website here).
Greg Zempel: Zempel has served as the elected Kittitas County Prosecutor for 22 years. He was elected in 1994, at the age of 32, making him one of the youngest elected prosecutors in the state. Zempel has retained a focus upon offender accountability, victims’ rights, and improved office operations. He has practiced at every level, from district court to the Washington State Supreme Court. Zempel has tried well over 100 jury trials as a defense attorney (his former career) or prosecutor. He is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound Law School (visit his website here).
Dave Larson: Judge Larson is currently the presiding Judge for Federal Way Municipal Court. Originally appointed to the seat in 2008, he is now serving his second full term after elections in 2009 and 2013. Judge Larson worked as a trial lawyer for 23 years before becoming a judge. He was ultimately rated “AV Preeminent,” which signifies that his peers rank him at the highest level of professional excellence for legal knowledge, communication skills and ethical standards. He is a graduate of the Seattle University Law School (visit his website here).