As we all awaited the state Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage Wednesday, July 26, politicians were already weighing the implications. Alex Hays, a liberal Republican and executive director of the controversial Constitutional Law PAC, was predicting that the court would strike down the state's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits marriage to a relationship between one man and one woman. But whatever the outcome, he is a key decision maker on how the ruling is used in this fall's highly politicized battles for state Supreme Court. Of the three court races on November's ballot, two are contested: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander is opposed by Bellevue property-rights lawyer John Groen and Associate Justice Susan Owens is facing state Sen. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent. Both challengers are allied with conservatives, while both incumbents are in the center of a centrist court. Hays started the first political action committee for judicial races in the state, and his group plans to back Johnson, a social conservative, and probably will support Alexander. Hays pledges that if the court decision needs to be critiqued, his organization will do so in a way that does not inflame the political landscape. "I have to make sure it doesn't result in hostility toward the gay and lesbian community," says Hays. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
Crime and Justice
According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, crime in Seattle rose 2 percent in 2005 from 2004. There was a 14.6 percent increase in aggravated assault and an 8.2 percent rise in violent crime generally. Murders were up 4.2 percent in 2005.
Just in time for U.S. Navy Fleet Week during Seafair, the U.S. Coast Guard has rendered a decision in the 2004 case of Glen Milner. The peace activist was detained and charged with violating a 500-yard Naval Vessel Protection Zone while he was skipper of an 11-foot inflatable in Elliott Bay and participating in a protest organized by the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. A Coast Guard hearing officer slapped Milner on the wrist, concluding that he "more likely than not" got too near the USS Bonhomme Richard, but not intentionally, so a warning was in order. A far cry from the $10,000 fine he faced after the first round of the Coast Guard's prosecution. In an e-mail, Milner says he's not satisfied, however, plans to appeal the warning, and adds, "The Peace Fleet will be out again on Aug. 2." CHUCK TAYLOR
It was a memorable moment, an assault by a publisher on her own free press. But Wendy McCaw's heavy-handed managerial and legal maneuvers in Santa Barbara likely come as no surprise to some lawyers in Seattle. The former wife of Eastside telecom billionaire Craig McCaw and publisher of the embattled News-Press there, McCaw squelched a story about the sentencing of one of her editors for drunken driving. That and other editorial conflicts ignited a staff revolt: Seven editors and a columnist walked out. McCaw ran a front-page editorial accusing the ex-employees of distorting the news. She also instructed her reporters and others to not comment and sent notices to three of the former employees threatening to take them to court if they exercised their right to speak freely. McCaw knows how to use the law. It's how she became wealthy enough to buy the paper in 1997 for $100 million after divorcing Craig McCaw. Wendy's attorneys outlawyered Craig's in an evidence-discovery battle royal that led to the state's biggest-ever divorce settlement. Wendy walked away with somewhere around $1 billion. RICK ANDERSON