By Jacob Rummel, KTTH producer
In the wake of the ruling on charter schools, one state representative is calling into question the impartiality of state Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court of Washington ruled in early September that charter schools don’t deserve state funding under the state constitution. One of the plaintiffs in the case: the Washington Education Association. Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg) told David Boze on AM 770 KTTH he takes issue with this because the WEA often donates money to the campaigns of state Supreme Court justices.
“Look, Lady Justice wears a blindfold for a reason,” Manweller said, “and the WEA by giving $50,000, $60,000, is allowing justices to peek under the blindfold.”
According to Public Disclosure Commission reports, they donated more than $7,500 to state Supreme Court justices in 2014 alone.
Manweller argues these donations have a clear influence on how justices rule on certain cases, and this most recent ruling over charter schools is only one of many examples.
“I wouldn’t say they are owned, because (donors) don’t win every case, but they do win an inordinate amount of cases,” Manweller said.
Hoping to harness the outrage over the charter school ruling, Manweller drafted an initiative to require state Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves of cases if anyone involved in the case previously donated to their campaign.
Justices need to be held to a higher standard than politicians, Manweller contends, it’s like the difference between athletes and referees.
“We understand that the owner of the Yankees pays his players a lot of money to play well, we don’t accept it if the owner of the Yankees writes a big check to the umpire before the game,” Manweller said. “We hold judges to a different standard because they’re supposed to be impartial.”
To get the initiative on the ballot, Manweller will need about 300,000 signatures. He’s using his Facebook page “Stop Buying Our Judges” as a gauge to determine whether to invest the time and money necessary to collect those signatures. Currently, the page has under 700 likes, but Manweller isn’t discouraged.
“I can tell you we started the page one week ago, and we already have 19,000 hits.”
If the page gets a certain number of hits, Manweller plans to print out the petition and start sending it out. Even if the initiative never makes it to the ballot, Manweller has more than one backup plan.
“If we fail, Sen. (Michael) Baumgartner is going to introduce our initiative as a bill, and we will run it as a bill in the next session,” Manweller said. “If that fails then we will come back with a direct initiative to the people, we won’t do an initiative to the Legislature we’ll just do a direct initiative, come March of next year. We are building the infrastructure either way.”