State Supreme Court hopefuls visit peninsula

At one point or another, all four candidates for Washington State Supreme Court Position Nine visited the North Olympic Peninsula during the primary election season.

Bruce Hilyer, a King County Superior Court judge, stopped in Sequim on May 18. A story appeared in the June 6 edition of the Sequim Gazette.

Sheryl Gordon McCloud, an attorney specializing in appeals, came on June 16 both to Sequim and to Port Angeles, where she, Hilyer and the other two candidates participated in a candidate forum before the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce. John Ladenburg, former Pierce County prosecutor and county executive, and Richard B. Sanders, who served as a Supreme Court judge from 1995-2011, also are in the race for the court justice Position Nine, vacated by the retiring Justice Tom Chambers.


A Kitsap County resident with a practice based in Seattle, McCloud said for the past 25 years she has been involved in appealing cases from the county Superior Court level to the state Supreme Court, federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. One case, arguing for pregnancy disability leave in 1986, resulted in a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that employers must reinstate women after a reasonable pregnancy disability leave.

“There is a need for standing up for Constitutional rights,” she said.

First and Second Amendment rights, civil rights and women’s reproductive rights are among the issues McCloud has fought for in her career, she said.

Notable appeals include representing Darold Stenson on his appeal to the state Supreme Court, federal court, back to Clallam County Superior Court, finally resulting in the state Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Stenson’s murder convictions on the grounds prosecutors withheld evidence.

While the results of the appeals aren’t always popular, they have earned her respect as someone who will stand up for the rights of others, she said.

McCloud said she is the only candidate with state Supreme Court experience, via the many appeals she has conducted in front of the court.

As a judge, it is important to be independent and apply the law, she said.

“Each case gets decided on facts, evaluated against the law on the books and on the state and federal constitutions,” she said. “It is not based on politics.”



Sanders, a Tacoma native, was re-elected to the state Supreme Court three times before narrowly losing in 2010 with 49.6 percent of the vote. He is running on a platform of open government, protecting individuals’ rights, criminal defendants’ rights and looking at the law from the citizens’ point of view not the government’s point of view.

“I think the government is not above the law,” he said, citing a Spokane case where the city was found to have wrongfully denied a citizen’s right to develop private property.

Sanders said he isn’t afraid to disagree with the other justices and in fact wrote 386 dissents while on the bench. The list of opinions is available at

“The state can protect itself,” he said. “The Founding Fathers wanted to protect the people from the state.”

Another key issue is access to justice, he said. Court fees make justice too unavailable to people who are not wealthy and the government isn’t putting enough money into the justice system, which is a basic service of the government, Sanders said.

“Government has money,” he said. “It’s a matter of priorities. Protecting citizens and justice should be No. 1.”



After practicing for 12 years as a civil and criminal defense attorney, Ladenburg defeated the incumbent Pierce County prosecutor and served 3½ terms, leaving only when he was elected to be county executive.

“I’m one of five attorneys in the state that has tried a death penalty case as a defense attorney and as a prosecutor,” he said.

Among his most notable cases are acting as defense in the case of Paul and Christopher St. Pierre, Pierce County brothers who were convicted of two murders in the 1980s, and prosecuting Earl Shriner, convicted in the attempted murder, first-degree rape and first-degree assault of a 7-year-old boy in 1990.

Because of the Shriner case, Ladenburg advocated to change state law regarding sex offender notification which resulted in the Sex Predator Notification Law.

“We in government know these people are being released — why can’t we tell the public?” Ladenburg said.

It also served as the starting point for the civil commitment law that allows the sex offenders considered to be most dangerous to the public to be confined to the McNeill Island prison.

Ladenburg said he has a broad background in government, criminal and administrative law, which would help the court make better decisions.

Among things he would like to see change is open budget hearings for courts.

“I think the courts hide too much,” he said. “The good old boys network needs to see a little sunshine.”

Reach Amanda Winters at

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