I’m sitting at an airport in Dallas.  I have thirty minutes to kill before boarding begins.  I want to get back to writing my blog.  I hope to finish up at least one installment of my blog on my flight back to Seattle. I’m in the air now.  I just finished watching the Avengers.  Dottie is at my feet.  Her soft travel crate is open.  She could step out if she wanted to. This is the first time we have travelled together in a bulkhead seat.  The crew told me to take her out of the crate for take-off since there was no seat in front of me to put her crate under.   She liked being out of the crate, standing on my lap, taking everything in.   I saw the flight attendants pointing at her during takeoff. “What breed is she” one of the flight attendant asked as she brought me a bottle of water.  “I think she is a Jack Russell rat terrier mix.  But her papers say Jack Russell”.  We smile.  People seem to fall in love with Dottie.  And it is my impression Dottie makes people friendlier toward me.  (I probably should have dragged her along to all those judicial candidate forums.   I probably could have gotten a few thousand more votes.  Maybe not.)


He reached into his black briefcase.  He pulled out a 2007 decision of the United States Supreme Court  upholding Washington’s primary system for partisan offices.  He said “here” and handed it to me. Then he pulled out a county voters pamphlet guide.  (One of the few which had been printed.)  He pointed out where the Voters’ Guide stated in bold type that the “top two candidates move onto the general election”.   There was nothing in the pamphlet which stated that this rule did not also apply to the judicial candidates included in the pamphlet. I smiled.  Maybe he was right.  Perhaps the law which provides that judges with 50.1% of the vote are automatically elected is unconstitutional as applied to this primary election. Washington’s Constitution states in Art. I, § 19: “All Elections shall be free and equal, and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.” 

August 13, 2012: Ask legislative candidates to restore the common law.

On August 6, 2012 I discussed how one federal judge, The Honorable William G. Young, viewed the change in the process of “judging” which has been going on in federal courts since the seventies.  See As Judge Young explained: Many [Judges] no longer perceived their primary tasks as deciding motions after oral argument and presiding as neutral referees at trials.  They were encouraged to consider themselves managers whose job was to dispose of cases expeditiously.  From that perspective a trial seemed wasteful. Judge Young is correct; our judicial system has been changed.  The goal of the judicial department is no longer to have judges carefully applying precedent to the facts of disputes through issuance of careful opinions stating the judges’ reasoning.  Now the goal of the judicial department is simply to have judges dispose of cases as quickly as possible.  This goal can be and is being reached in Washington by the Washington Court of Appeals deliberately deciding most cases as non-precedential decisions, which are not incorporated onto the common law as either binding or persuasive precedent.


Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV) 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.   I struggle sometimes in knowing where the Lord is sheparding us.  By “us” I mean the world, and everything about it. I struggle less in knowing what God’s will is for me.  This is because I have the temple (body, mind, and soul) God has given me to ascertain and carry out what His will is for me. I pray only that I know what it is that God wants me to do and that I have the courage to do that.

August 10 and 11, 2012 – Fall is coming

Countdown to General Election: 86 days; 21 hours; 27 minutes I came home after work on Friday, August 10 and fell deeply asleep.  I slept from 6:00 until 10:00 PM, jerking about the bed, engrossed in vivid dreams, which I no longer remember. (I am beginning to wonder whether, I dream more often than I think I do.  Or maybe the dreams are just a result of the campaign?  I do not know.) When I woke at 10:00 PM on August 10 the light was gone, but the day was not over. I turned on my laptop which rests on my bedside table.  I had moved up to 12.61% of the vote (not that this matters), which was a little more than 114,000 votes. I was hungry.  I went downstairs to get something to eat. Dottie followed me, apparently hungry too.  I fed us both and we returned to bed.  I turned off my light intending to return to my dream filled slumber when I heard the noise my phone makes when someone texts me. “Are you up?” I texted back:  “Yes”. “Can I call you?”  I answered:  “Sure”. The phone vibrated, and then started to ring.  I answered:  “Hello”. As those who have followed this blog know, neither my Dad nor I have practiced domestic relations law since his convincing a couple to stay together had disastrous consequences.  The problem was a separated Dad was trying to use his four year son in a game of emotional chess with … Continue Reading


Yes, I’m also having trouble understanding the voting process as it is being documented by the Secretary of State’s office.  Let me explain what appears to be going based on my several observations of it. The link to the Secretary of State’s election returns can be found at The “voter turnout” tab can be seen by pressing that tab or by clicking The voter turnout information is broken down into following data information: County Registered Voters Total Ballots Counted to Date Voter Turnout % Last Updated Date/Time Next Ballot Count Date/Time Estimated Ballots on Hand to be Processed At the top of an alphabetized list of Washington counties is total voter turn out information for all counties.  I have reproduced below that list as I copied it sometime around 11:00 PM Total 3,731,655 1,168,649 31.32% 08/09/2012     7:12 PM 08/09/2012 4:00 PM 220,500   I assume the “estimated ballots to be counted” means the number of ballots which remained to be counted.  The last time I saw this number today it was about 330,000.  So I assume this means approximately a 100,000 or so votes were counted today. The voting information is also shown for each county. The time and date remaining to count the “estimated ballots on hand to be processed” by each County is shown under the “Next Ballot Count Date/Time” heading.  Interestingly, the number of ballots estimated to be processed for King County has grown larger over time and is now a little over 100,000. Several … Continue Reading


I apologize for not blogging sooner. For those of you who have texted me with questions about the results, I do not know how the Secretary of State web site works or when the final returns will be in. However, it certainly looks like I lost. This loss is not necessarily anything which needs to be grieved about. Certainly, I am not doing so. I congratulate each of my opponents and am grateful to have met each of them. In the time since the votes started to be counted my most overwhelming feeling has been gratitude. I am grateful to have had this experience. I am grateful to every single person who voted for me or thought about voting for me. I am grateful to anyone who voted for my opponents. My hope is we will continue observing and speaking about how our judicial system is working for the people it was intended to serve. I hope more lawyers will focus on how the process of judging impacts on the quality of justice received by their clients. I encourage other lawyers to run for appellate judgeship in the future. Congratulations to Justice Owens.  The election results show you have great support among the electorate.


Call me a little weird, but I like reading case law.  Sometimes when I can’t sleep I will study cases in areas of the law in which I have an interest.  One of the more interesting cases I have read relating to the subject of this blog is an opinion by a Massachusetts federal judge, the Honorable William G. Young,  in Culhane v Aurora Loan Servs., 826 F. Supp. 2d 352 (2011). The opinion starts: “What does a judge do?” asked my three year old granddaughter Mia. Without half thinking, I answered, “A judge teaches law to people who come to court.” Upon reflection, that answer is about as good as any. 1 Trial judges teach the law to lawyers through evidentiary rulings; they teach the law to juries through plain, easy to understand instructions; they teach the law to offenders and the public alike at sentencing hearings; 2 and they teach the law to litigants through careful opinions that explicate judicial choice as “reasoned choice, candidly explained.” Robert E. Keeton, Judging 1 (1990). Yet, as I explained to Mia, they teach the law only “to people who come to court.” Trial judges have no roving commission to teach the law generally. Their teaching is limited only to “cases and controversies,” U.S. Const. art. III, and then only when the standards of ripeness, standing, and redressability are met. Footnote 1 states: At least it was when I joined the district court bench over a quarter of a century ago.  Yet … Continue Reading


About 11:30 am I was driving south on I-5 to Seattle following a Milky Way truck.   It was one of those double tank trucks pulled by a cab.  If “Milky Way” had not been prominently displayed on the tanks I would have thought I was following a petroleum rig.   From a symbolic perspective I was happy to be following the Milky Way tanks until I decided the driver was not going fast enough.  As I pushed my throttle and drove past the Milky Way tanks, I thought about the day ahead. Virginia said to dress “snappy” for the African American festival at 1:00 pm.   Gary and I were going to meet Virginia and her daughter,  AO, at the festival after they got out of church.  Maybe “snappy” isn’t the exact word she used.  But it was something like that.  (It is an open question as to whether Virginia and I agree on a definition of “snappy” as it turned out we never got together today.)  After the festival the plan was to go to a barbecue sponsored by “Our Washington”.  The last part of the day’s plan was to meet up with Michelle and Karen and drive to I-5 overpasses to wave signs in hopes of getting votes on Monday and Tuesday.  This also did not happen. So what did happen was this.  Gary and I went to 23rd and Union and discovered the festival was not there.   There was an empty lot with a sign on a fence which … Continue Reading


I did not pay particular attention to the time I got up.   I did notice the day.  It was beautiful. I put on khaki shorts and noticed a sleeveless muscle shirt I hadn’t worn in years.  I put it on.  It sorta fit.  So I decided to wear it.  I decided to claim the day as my own. Downstairs there were “Stafne for Justice” signs and the 99 cent metal frames which held them up.  I didn’t want them to go to waste and realized that I hadn’t put any of my own signs up.  So I grabbed about thirty of each (the sign and metal mount) and left the basement.  Dottie was right behind me.  I loaded them in the car and drove down the mountain. If you turn left as you exit Twin Falls Estates, you head toward Granite Falls and that is where I decided to go. I was surprised how many grassy spots have rocks that interfere with sticking campaign signs into the planet.  I got better putting up signs as the day wore on. So I put a bunch of signs on Jordan Road and then proceeded into down town Granite Falls.  I stopped to eat at Ike’s.  I asked how the restaurant’s owners would feel if I left a “Stafne for Justice” in a window.  They weren’t thrilled about this opportunity, but said I could put a sign outside.  That worked for me and that grass hardly had any hidden rocks. Then I went … Continue Reading


Incredibly, the Supreme Court knows how to make things happen fast when a Chief Justice wants something done. Rehnquist decided my clients’ position had merit, but indicated he was not sure we had properly filed an appeal.  Therefore, he indicated that he would allow the Ninth Circuit to consider the issue.  However, he telegraphed how he thought the Ninth Circuit should rule by stating that if the court did not decide in my clients favor then the Ninth Circuit’s ruling could be immediately returned to him. As a young attorney, I was dizzy.  It appeared as if the legal system was really working. The Ninth Circuit ordered immediate oral argument by phone.  As the hearing began, I remember Tim Weaver (another legend now deceased) describing me as a “paper mill”.  I don’t remember how the judges responded to this, but I always considered the jab a compliment.  I admired both Tim and Mason Morrisset (another legend), who represented the Tribes in these disputes. The Court faxed out its ruling.  Of course, the 2 to 1 ruling favored my clients.  However, the majority opinion was pretty much gibberish.  The facts were unclear and no ratio decedendi could be discerned.  The dissent, which I recall was written by Judge Sneed, was eloquent.  I assumed this was judicial politics. I told my clients we had won.  There were celebrations.  But then skies darkened. Hours later the Commerce Department, which did have the authority to change the fishing season did so.  So the exhilarating and … Continue Reading


This blog is about regular people, legends, and one historical figure. Legends include people who are well known during a portion of their lives and a generation or so after. My Dad was a legend in Iowa. The judges and law professors I mention in this blog are also legends.   The law professor, Alan Vestal, a former primary editor of Moore’s Manual, is probably better known nationally than the judges I discuss, who are most familiar to people on the West Coast. Historical figures are different than legends.  The historical figure discussed in this blog is William H. Rehnquist, a deceased Justice, who also served as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. And then there are regular folk, like myself and fishermen clients. So our story begins back in the late seventies. Sara Hemphill was a fellow student in the University of Washington’s Law and Marine Affairs program in 1976.  We became fast friends and partners in a law firm we named Stafne and Hemphill.  It was one of the first law firms to specialize in Fisheries and Conservation Management Act law. We represented longliners, trollers, and the first Soviet-US Joint venture vessel processing company.  For years foreign countries and domestic fishermen had been able to fish outside the U.S. three mile territorial limit without restrictions.  Creation of the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between 3 to 200 miles from our coastline caused havoc for many notwithstanding the promise of better utilization marine resources. Not everyone was … Continue Reading


I was invited to participate in a candidate forum at Seattle University School of Law.  I got there early. I like law schools.  I like law schools because they teach the fundamentals of our legal system, including how the Judicial Department relates to the Executive and Legislative branches of our government.  I was happy to be attending the debate at the Seattle University Law School. I was the first candidate at the event.  Sheryl Gordan McCloud was the next candidate to get there. I met Dean Mark Niles, who served as the forum’s moderator.  I told Dean Miles the Stafne Law Firm had hired three graduates from Seattle University Law School.  He asked who they were.  Unfortunately, each had graduated before Niles had been appointed Dean.  But he seemed to recognize each of their names. I have been pleased by these SU lawyers’ legal work.  Because of their legal acumen I knew the students and academics would appreciate the huge disconnect between how the common law is supposed to work and our Court of Appeal issuing six precedential decisions and 41 unpublished, non prdecedetial decisions this week. It is obvious the Court of Appeals has left us with a threadbare rug, from which the law must be guessed at by lawyers and potential parties alike. Keeping the law secret is inimical to any concept of open access to justice.  It obviously is the most glaring example of a secret, unequal system of justice we have in Washington courts.  My opponent’s … Continue Reading


The debate begins at 5:30 pm today.  It will be worth watching. I used this morning to finish up my judicial endorsements.  Unlike our Washington newspapers, I thought long and hard about them. As you know every sitting judge and justice has endorsed one another.  This group hug seems strange because most judges are running unopposed.  This practice appears designed to keep competition out.  A lawyer has to become an outsider among his peers to run against a sitting judge. One candidate elections … Sounds like what we have heard occurs in China. Doesn’t it?  But this is happening here in the State of Washington.  If you are not happy with the way the courts are operating, show it!!!  Vote for me as I am the only candidate who claims our courts are failing. Let’s shake the system up!!! Let’s win the primary for position 2 of the Supreme Court by obtaining more than 51% of the vote for Stafne by August 7, 2012, which is the date when the ballots must be mailed. ENDORSEMENTS FOR POSITION 9 My endorsements are based upon my views as to 1.) How much concern each candidate has evidenced for the integrity of the “nuts and bolts” workings of the judicial process; and 2.) How much each candidate will appreciate the people’s interests Vis a Vis the interests one per cent after the November elections. My endorsements take into account my observations of each candidate on the campaign trail, as well as my independent … Continue Reading