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Chief Justice Offers Once-Bitten Explanation For Court's Role On School Funding

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File photo of the Temple of Justice on the Washington State Capitol campus in Olympia, Washington.

Washington Republicans have said the state Supreme Court’s sanction over school funding “presents a clear threat” to separation of powers. Now the chief justice of the Supreme Court is offering her perspective.

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen said there’s a reason the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction in the McCleary school funding case. It’s because of what happened in 1977 with a previous case dealing with the state’s paramount duty.

“We deferred to the legislature, believed that it would meet its mandate,” Madsen said.

So when the issue came back before the Supreme Court in 2012 , Madsen said, “the court didn’t have quite the same amount of confidence at that time.”

Since then, Washington justices have found the state in contempt of court and imposed a $100,000-per-day sanction. Madsen isn’t surprised some lawmakers feel the court has overstepped.

“While you may say the legislature budgets, of course they budget, but we’re talking about a lawsuit here, a lawsuit in which one party prevailed,” Madsen said.

Austin Jenkins spoke with Chief Justice Madsen on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."