Supreme Court Politics

Plus: Another sheriff's deputy who can't be fired, and the AG helps Paul Allen keep his finances to himself.

State Politics

A conservative effort to control the state Supreme Court is well under way, and liberals are finally discussing how to respond. Three justices face re-election this fall: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, Susan Owens, and Tom Chambers. All hover around the court's center, leaning left or right depending on the case. In November, conservatives formed the Constitutional Law PAC, the state's first political action committee to focus on judicial races. Two conservative candidates have declared candidacy for the high court: state Sen. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent, is running against Owens, and Bellevue property-rights attorney John Groen is challenging Alexander. Meanwhile, powerful liberal interests—pro-choice groups, trial attorneys, and labor unions, among them—are discussing forming a judicial PAC of their own. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Law Enforcement

You'd think it'd be easy for King County Sheriff Sue Rahr to fire a deputy who was found to have used excessive force, especially after all the heat the sheriff's office has taken over the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's unending series about discipline problems. Nope. On Oct. 22, Deputy Brian Bonnar used excessive force on a handcuffed suspect, according to an internal investigation. Following a car pursuit, the unidentified woman was in custody when Bonnar, among other things, kneed her in the head. Chief Robin Fenton recommended that Bonnar, 40, be fired. But three attorneys, including an outside labor-law expert, told Rahr that she couldn't make a firing stick because, according to the sheriff, deputies who were at the scene provided conflicting testimony. Also, it was the first offense for the three-year veteran, and under the union contract, deputies are to receive progressive discipline. Rahr suspended Bonnar for 20 days without pay, and in a March 8 letter wrote that he would "likely be terminated" should another use-of-force violation occur. PHILIP DAWDY

Open Government

Try not to snort too loudly when pundits point to the Seahawks and Mariners as role models for the SuperSonics. Their argument: If you want a new arena, Sonics, put some money on the table like the M's and Hawks did. Actually, the Sonics always figured on sweetening the pot (see "The Sonics' Venue Envy," Feb. 1) and were—and might still be—waiting for the opportune moment. Thank you, pundits, for playing along. Besides, taxpayers shelled out more than $1 billion in principal and interest alone so the wealthy baseball and football franchises could have playpens from which to net all the profit. That's not exactly an example of how to prudently invest public money. And Seahawks owner Paul Allen, the world's richest sports mogul, still refuses to live up to his original agreement with taxpayers. He was required by the law creating the stadium authority to disclose the finances of his team (see "Show Us the Money," Feb. 12, 2003). Though a state attorney general's opinion backed disclosure, Allen stalled, awaiting regime change. Last week, that paid off when Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, a crusader for prying open public records, opined that Allen's profit and loss weren't the public's business. Allen can keep his books closed. State Treasurer Mike Murphy called it a "disturbing" opinion that sidestepped the issues. Tacoma News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan called the opinion a "free pass" for the billionaire. We call it another door slammed in the face of taxpayers. RICK ANDERSON

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