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Wiggins sworn in as newest justice

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Charlie Wiggins takes the oath as he becomes Washington's newest supreme court justice, Jan. 7, 2010, in Olympia, Wash.

The state's newest Supreme Court justice was sworn in Friday afternoon. Charlie Wiggins defeated incumbent Justice Richard Sanders by just 13,000 votes in November's election. 

The Bainbridge Island attorney challenged Sanders, who had served three terms, and who was sometimes the center of controversy. 

Gene Johnson of the Associated Press covered today's swearing in, and the Wiggins-Sanders race last fall:

Wiggins is recognized in legal circles for his sharp grasp of the law, his efforts to strengthen judicial ethics and his eloquent writing. He organized an “urban people’s law school” to teach residents of Seattle’s Central District about practical legal concepts and traveled to Albania to advise judicial officers there in the aftermath of communism’s fall.

Wiggins election bid was boosted by controversial comments Justice Sanders made in the closing days of the campaign about African-Americans and the justice system. At the time,  the Associated Press reported:

He said certain minority groups are "disproportionally represented in prison because they have a crime problem."

Sanders stuck by his views, and lost the endorsement of The Seattle Times. Wiggins pulled out a victory after ballots in King County pushed him past Sanders in vote counting after election day.

Wiggins experience has previous experience in legal issues at the state level, having filled out a term on the appeals court when Gerry Alexander became a justice. The AP's Johnson writes his experience is varied:

Wiggins has served on a variety of state bar and court rules committees. A critic of judicial elections, he helped create, a website to help voters learn about judges, and he testified before the Legislature in favor of limits on judicial campaign contributions.

TVW televised the swearing in ceremony today from the Temple of Justice in Olympia.