Prop. 115: A good compromise or attack of the evangelicals?by Mark B. Evans on Oct. 31, 2012, under Uncategorized
A Genuine Compromise
By Emil Franzi,
Southern Arizona News-Examiner
“Just let me do the nominatin’ and I don’t much care who does the votin’”
- William Marcy Tweed, Tammany Hall
All those folks who constantly whine about a “lack of compromise”, “polarization” and “partisan gridlock” should support this measure because it is a genuine if partial compromise between those who want their judges elected and those who want them kept as far away from the people as possible.
Until 1974, Arizona judges were elected at all levels. In 1974 voters amended the state constitution to change that statewide and in the larger counties to appointment by the governor from a short list provided from an appointed commission. It was then as now heralded as a great reform from a supposedly corrupt elected system. After almost 40 years, the basic dispute over who shall govern exemplified by how the judiciary is chosen is far from being settled, and the issue of corruption now attaches itself to the current system.
Proponents of the Merit Selection system consider a narrowly defined list of “qualifications” to be all important and claim that the system removes the process from “politics”.
Beware of anything that claims to take the politics out of politics.
The judicial branch was designed as co-equal to the legislative and executive. It was one of the great features of the original constitution and copied all through the free world. At the federal level the balance is achieved by allowing the executive branch to choose the judiciary with the consent of the legislative.
Moving to the federal system and dumping all those short lists and appointed nominating commissions would allow those we elect to pick those who judge us and would be the real compromise. Prop 115 only moves us in that direction by reducing the power of the state bar association to appoint commissioners and increases that of the governor. It also forces the selection commission to give the governor a wider choice that the three names sent now.
Other parts of the compromise includes extending the terms of appellate and supreme court justices from six to eight years and allowing judges to serve until age 75, up from 70.
Baby steps to real reform. The supposed partisan neutrality of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments was shattered when that body was assigned the role of nominating the members of the supposedly independent commission on re-apportionment that blatantly gerrymandered Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts. A child of four could tell that the fix was in. Think the same partisan crap doesn’t occur when these people send the governor the short lists for judges? Think partisanship and carefully selected “independents” aren’t used to game the system for judges too? Isn’t this even more corrupt than any direct election?
The defenders of the current system tout the wonders of somehow finding the most qualified people, a definition they reserve for themselves and hold not only the voter but those we voters select in quiet contempt. They are part of the original progressive movement that would reduce elected officials to the level of student government while elevating the unelected judiciary to supremacy and eliminate the tri-partite system on which our government is based.
To control the nominating process is to control the rest.
Don’t give the governor free reign over judicial appointments
By Mark B. Evans
Should strict adherence to the Christian faith and adamant opposition to abortion be the deciding factors as to whether a lawyer is appointed as a Superior Court Judge in Pima or Maricopa counties, or to any of the state’s appellate courts?
How you answer that question may determine how you vote on Proposition 115, which seeks to reform the selection and retention rules for state appellate judges and Superior Court judges in those counties.
Most voters will receive their voter guide pamphlet in the mail in the next few weeks and there are many arguments for and against Prop. 115, most asserting that it either removes politics from the selection process or injects more politics into it.
But this is only partly about the politics of judicial selection and mostly about so-called Christian values. It’s a solution seeking a problem put forth by the Center for Arizona Policy, a Phoenix-based evangelical Christian organization that wields enormous influence over the Arizona Republican Party and whose leaders fervently believe that a “Biblical worldview” in public policy is essential for Arizona’s prosperity.
Arizona’s conservatives the past few years have been trying to remake state government to conform to their political vision and the Center for Arizona Policy is in the vanguard of that effort. Prop. 115 is its idea, it not only championed the proposition, but was directly involved in the negotiations over the ballot’s language.
Arizonans used to elect all of its Superior Court and appellate judges but voters in 1974 changed the state constitution for the appellate courts and Maricopa and Pima counties because it was believed then that direct election of judges made them more beholden to the whims of the electorate or the monied interests who funded their campaigns than the law.
They instead created a merit selection process in which a bipartisan panel of experts selects a bipartisan list of three candidates for the governor to choose from to fill a court vacancy. Selected superior court judges then must face voters every four years and appellate judges every six years in a “retention” vote. Since 1974, no judge or justice has ever been booted by voters.
The supposed basis for the needed change is that the Arizona Bar Association wields inordinate power in the current merit selection process and the Bar has supposedly become more liberal these days and therefore supposedly only liberal jurists have been making the cut for the governor’s choice.
Yet during the debate and negotiation over the Senate resolution in 2011, little evidence was presented as to the supposed left leanings of all the judicial nominees. In fact, every time Gov. Jan Brewer appointed a judge, her office issued a glowing press release proclaiming the virtues of her appointee.
But this proposition isn’t what the Center and the state’s conservative legislators wanted. They wanted a system similar to the federal selection process in which the governor could pick whomever he or she wanted, but that nominee would have to be confirmed by the state Senate. What’s more, they wanted every judge to face reconfirmation at the end of their terms.
The judges and the Bar balked at that, saying it made the selection process completely political and instead dug in for a compromise which is manifested in the awful Prop. 115.
While purporting to retain the merit selection system it in fact guts it. The proposed changes give the governor extraordinary power in selecting judges. It dilutes the power of the Bar in the nominating process and increases the number of nominees to eight, which, considering the paucity of applications for most judicial vacancies, essentially insures that every application will make it to the governor’s desk.
In other words, it takes the merit out of the merit selection process. Rather than have a body of legal work that warrants elevation to the bench as determined by a panel of legal experts, an applicant need only conform to the governor’s political view of the world to get appointed to the judiciary. No check, no balance, just appointment.
That’s worse than the pick-and-confirm process originally proposed.
For the deeply religious members of the Legislature and the leaders of the Center for Arizona Policy, they need to be mindful of what they wish for – they may get it. While it may be inconceivable to them that another Democrat could be elected governor of Arizona, it was only a short four years ago that their unholy of unholies – Janet Napolitano – sat behind the governor’s desk.
If the merit selection system is not working as intended, then by all means, tweak it (as voters did in 1992, adding more members to the merit selection panel). But there’s no evidence that it’s not working, unless you insist that every judge in Arizona proclaim their Christian faith and opposition to abortion.
But this isn’t about abortion or Christianity. It’s about selecting the best judges to rule on the law without them having to cleave to a narrow, religious view of it.
Prop. 115 is a disaster and should be rejected. Vote no on Prop. 115.