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WA Supreme Court candidate: Court shouldn’t second guess voters on car tabs

(MyNorthwest)

The recent state Supreme Court I-976 ruling overturning the 53% of voters who said yes to $30 car tabs may bring renewed interest to the Supreme Court race. Judge Dave Larson is a former trial lawyer running for the court and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss the ruling.

“I would have been in the dissent,” Larson said. “There were some things that weren’t mentioned, for instance, that if something’s going to be unconstitutional it has to be shown to be unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt. That was made clear in the 2003 decision on I-776, which was similar to I-976. It’s an example of how when the court decisions were made and people rely on those and go out and do something. And then if the playing field’s moved, it makes it much more difficult to come up with an initiative.”

“In this case, they used the dissent from the 2003 — the losing side — to justify the winning side today without overruling that 2003 case,” he added. “So basically with some gymnastics declared I-976 unconstitutional when it should have been declared this constitutional just like 776 was.”

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While the court deemed the car tabs ballot title confusing in their reasoning, Larson believes the court was looking for a reason to overturn it, and assuming the judgment of voters is the wrong approach.

“It’s looking for a way to overturn it, and it was clear. And it’s where the justices are replacing their judgment for the judgment of the voters in terms of what’s clear and not clear,” he said. “Forty-seven percent thought that it was clear they should vote no and 53% that it was clear they should vote yes. To second guess the voters is not what a court is supposed to do.”

When deciding a case like this, when does the voters’ will come into assessing a constitutional technical point?

“When you’re overlaying the Constitution — if that’s what you’re looking at, is that constitutional — there should be no difference between a bill that passes the Legislature and an initiative in terms of how it’s analyzed.” Larson said. “It’s either constitutional or it’s not. You look for ways not to declare something constitutional or unconstitutional first, and only when it’s shown, like I said, beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s unconstitutional, that you then declare it unconstitutional.”

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“So the same test should apply,” he said. “When bills are coming out of the Legislature, when initiatives are passed by folks — maybe they’re considered on the other side of the aisle — are they going to be treated the same as 976 was? And that’s the issue. And there’s a perception that they aren’t treated the same right now.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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