Judicial candidate shares views
By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff
Although many may think of the courts system as simply a judicial remedy for criminal activities, the Washington State Supreme Court is important to everyone, as the decisions it makes affect the “way of life” for the state’s citizens, according to supreme court candidate Greg Zempel.
Zempel, a 22-year prosecutor from Kittitas County, said that lack of information about state supreme court candidates and a limited understanding of the role of the supreme court means most people don’t vote in the judicial races. Zempel is running against incumbent Barbara Madsen for the Pos. 5 seat on the Washington State Supreme Court.
However, Zempel said voting in judicial elections is just as important as for other positions.
“One of the big challenges for running for this office is voter uncertainty about the judiciary, as it is the least followed branch of government,” said Zempel. “Many people feel as if they do not know enough about the justices to make an informed vote, and therefore do not vote. This is why I have made a concerted effort to make myself available to voters in every county of the state, small or large, on the east side of the mountains or the peninsula. “
Zempel said the impact of state supreme court decisions for the average person should not be understated.
“The Supreme Court position is important because it is the highest court in the State of Washington and the decisions handed down have significant impacts to our citizens’ way of life. The court’s decisions in criminal cases can make our communities safer or less safe from criminals,” he related. “The court’s decisions on civil matters can alter how we do business, whether we will maintain the protections guaranteed by our constitution, whether we can use our property, defend our property and whether we will make decisions at the local level or have decisions dictated by state agencies.”
Decisions from the Washington State Supreme Court can impact both criminal and civil cases and many of the cases heard by the state supreme court involve “government actions against citizens,” Zempel related.
“The Court decides a variety of cases, both criminal and civil. Eighty percent of the cases that make it to the court deal with criminal matters or cases involving government action against citizens. This Court has favored the rights of defendants over victims and communities. This Court has favored state agencies over local governments and citizens, making local decision making on issues such as growth management a meaningless expression,” he said.
Zempel said if elected he will work to protect citizens from the actions of government and help bring the court back into its proper, limited role.
“Philosophically, I would not be an activist on the court, preferring that the legislature be the branch of government that decides policy directions for the state. I believe in equal justice for all citizens, not just those who are in favor with the court. I do not believe that there is any presumption found in our constitution that says that state government agencies are smarter than our citizens,” said Zempel. “Unlike my opponent, I do believe that there are limitations on the authority of the court, and that they are easily found within our state constitution. Unlike my opponent, I believe in the separation of powers between our three equal branches of government – I do not believe that one branch of government should perform the duties of other branches of government. And finally, I believe that the most important function of our court is to use our constitution to protect our citizens from the actions of government, to protect our rights that our given from God but stated for clarity in our constitution. “
For more information, visit www.zempelforjustice.org