Constitutional rights matter. For that reason, I feel deeply privileged to be serving the people of the State of Washington as a Supreme Court Justice – because my job is to rule on all sorts of disputes, including disputes about our constitutional and individual rights. The Supreme Court’s decisions on these difficult issues sometimes affect the lives of millions of people and sometimes the lives of just a few. But I know that each decision is vitally important to someone.
Given the importance of the cases we decide, I have worked hard every day since I began serving in 2013 to participate in the decisions of the Court thoughtfully and independently. Sometimes I agree with my colleagues – for example, when I authored our Court’s unanimous decision upholding the right of a gay couple to buy their wedding flowers at the store they chose, despite the store owner’s refusal to make that sale because she disapproved of such a wedding. Sometimes I disagree with my colleagues – for example, when I dissented from a decision of our Court interpreting a statute that criminalized a child’s decision to “sext” to an adult, even though the criminal statute he supposedly violated was really designed to protect children from harm, not to turn them into criminals. But whether I agree or disagree, I always start with my commitment to uphold the rule of law – just as I promised when I first asked for your vote in 2012.
In my first term, I authored and joined decisions upholding our constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and privacy. I stood by our children’s right to a fully funded education. I wrote strong decisions opposing discrimination and upholding workers’ rights to safe working conditions. And through my work as Chair of the Court’s statewide Gender & Justice Commission, as well as representing our Court on the Washington State Bar Association’s Council on Public Defense, I have taken a leadership role in ensuring equal access to justice – justice for all.
This is a time when all of us – regardless of our political views – must stand together in appreciating the value of fair and independent judges. We must be unified in remembering that the independence of our judicial branch is vital to our democracy. I remain committed to fighting for those values.
In the coming years, I expect a continuing flow of difficult issues to come before our Court. I will address each case with great care and be the kind of independent Supreme Court Justice the people deserve.
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud