Our Voice: Thumbs up to the Senate for confirming Sal Mendoz

June 22, 2014 

Judicious Senate vote

To U.S. Senate confirmed Sal Mendoza Jr. to become the first Latino federal judge in Eastern Washington.

Mendoza has been a Benton-Franklin Superior Court judge since 2013 and was a lawyer for 15 years, including a year as an assistant attorney general and a year as a deputy prosecutor in Franklin County.

He helped start the Juvenile Drug Court program, was a proponent of equal access to justice through his work with Benton-Franklin Legal Aid Society and serves as a Columbia Basin College trustee.

The breadth and depth of his judicial experience are good reasons to support Mendoza, but we're just as impressed by his embodiment of the American dream.

"(It is) not every day that a man who is the son of migrant farm workers, and himself worked on farms in the Yakima Valley, is called on by the president of the United States to become the very first Latino federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Through his work ethic, commitment to his community and his belief in equal opportunity, he has been a leader and role model for families, particularly for young men and women born into poverty and difficult circumstances, Murray said.

Mendoza was confirmed with a lopsided vote of 92-4. We're not surprised by the strong show of support.

Final chapter

Thumbs down to the economic situation that's forcing owners of the Richland Bookworm store to close the doors later this summer after 40 years.

Owners Cindy and Mark Bitzer aren't getting the business needed to justify keeping the store open, so we can't blame them for their decision.

"This definitely isn't what we wanted to do. But the support just isn't there in the community, Cindy told the Herald. "It's sad to see this one go," she added.

The Kennewick store will remain open, so fans of the Bookworm still can do business with the popular used-book outlet.

But as fans of the written word, we're saddened by the loss of the Richland store.

Under wraps

Thumbs down to the Obama administration for quietly advising police departments around the nation not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up cellphone data from entire neighborhoods.

It's a troubling development for a couple of reasons. For starters, the president is urging police to ignore state open records laws. That's a terrible precedent that transfers power from the states to Washington, D.C.

In addition, it renders President Obama's own words into hypocritical poppycock.

"My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government," the president said.

How does that square with the U.S. intervening in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology?

As a result of federal pressure, police departments withheld materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment, The Associated Press reported.

The president has a good policy on open government. He ought to adopt it.

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