Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Republican hijacking of SCOTAZ

The Supreme Court of Arizona, and with it the very structure of democratic government in Arizona, is under attack.

If you are in a rush to get to the links or court or wherever, I will do you the service of providing the short version of where things stand.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments provides a list of names to the Governor for appointment to SCOTAZ. The Governor then appoints from that list. The problem? The Governor has control over who sits on that commission and thereby controls which names he gets to choose from.

The bill now before the Legislature would expand the court by two more members. The problem? Said Governor gets to appoint those additional members. (Remember his last appointment was Goldwater Institute guy, Clint Bolick).

The SCOTAZ Chief Justice tried to cut a deal with the Legislature for more funding in exchange for agreeing to the expansion of the Court. The problem? Looks like the Legislature will not go along so the Court might be expanded with no increased funding for the state's judiciary.

As a result of all that, an expanded SCOTAZ would likely be far, far more Republican. The problem? That Court, now reconstituted as a branch of the GOP, would rule on pressing issues. (Think public education lawsuits.)

Read the longer version after the break.

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) has an update on the attempt to convert the AZ Supreme Court into a branch of the Republican party.

Blue Meanie, along with other columnists have been warning about the danger in the attempt to expand the Supreme Court from 5 to 7 justices.

From Tim Steller at the Daily Star on the process of nominating candidates for SCOTAZ:

... the system doesn’t allow the governor to appoint just anyone, Scarpinato pointed out. He must choose from a slate picked by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.

But that commission has eight Republicans out of 13 members now. And more ominously, a bill passed last year gave the governor the right to replace those commissioners at will, even when their terms aren’t up. With that, he effectively gained control of the commission that gives him the names to pick from.

BlueMeanie cites Linda Valdez's coverage of the attempt to get more money into the judicial system - and how the deal is failing.

Republic columnist Linda Valdez reports that Chief Justice Scott Bales’ deal for more money for the judiciary referenced by Steller is unraveling. Now our lawless Tea-Publican legislators are just negotiating the price to own the court. Valdez: Chief Justice sold his soul to lawmakers, and he lost:

Chief Justice Scott Bales’ effort to horse trade with the Legislature is failing.

Arizona will be the loser.

You remember how the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court agreed to go along with an attempt to let Gov. Doug Ducey pack the court in exchange for about an extra $10 million in the courts’ budget.

The deal is falling through – at least the part that involves money to the courts.

Dave Byers, administrative director of the courts, sent an e-mail to the Arizona Judicial Council and Presiding Superior Court judges explaining how bad things are:

“As you know the Judicial Council had voted to support a ‘package’ that included vital budget needs for the court system and an expansion of the Supreme Court to seven members. The President of the senate would not agree to that package. . . . As such the ‘package’ is stalled and may be dead.”

According to Byers’ e-mail, Senate President Andy Biggs has a scaled down “package slim” he’s discussing. Byers’s e-mail says the chief justice “has explained, there other critical court budget priorities that need to be funded before he can agree to adding more justices to the court, a budget item that is not in any way critical for the courts.”

It’s a little late for that. Bales already agreed to expanding the size of the court. His mistake was expecting GOP lawmakers to honor his price.

When I asked Byers what the courts’ next move is, he told me by e-mail that “we continue to make our case with legislators.”

Good luck.

Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Norris, who was opposed to accepting what she calls “court packing” in exchange for needed funding, points to “damage to the judiciary by attempting to cut a deal.”

The judiciary could wind up with the “worst of both worlds,” she said.

An editorial in the Arizona Republic called the court packing plan “corrosive.”

Bales said the additional justices could not be justified based on need, but he insisted the deal was not the same as selling out. He also said the unneeded expansion of the court from five to seven members was not court packing.

“It is, in fact, an effort to pack the court,” says Norris. It would change the structure of Arizona’s high court virtually overnight.

It would assure that Arizona’s ruling Republican Party gains faster control over the third branch of government.

The chief justice should have kept it pure. He should have vigorously argued against the court packing scheme while making the case for needed funding increases.

Instead, he tried to cut a deal.

Once GOP lawmakers found out the courts could be bought, they started haggling over the price.

BlueMeanie sums it up.

This is how our authoritarian Tea-Publicans operate. It is creeping fascism.

That view is echoed by one of the respondents to BlueMeanie's post.

Frances Perkins | April 23, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Reply

The tactics of Ducey resemble those of tinhorn dictators in Thailand, Russia, Zimbabwe, and Turkey. Maybe Ducey can move to Cuba, they need a younger version of the Castros. Stack government institutions, get the power to purge those who disagree with you, ignore any contrary opinions, get rid of organizations who can disagree with you. Next local government officials will be told to keep quiet, universities and courts will be stacked with supporters and the voters will be purged or silenced. This is a very dangerous trend in this State. Ducey was not elected dictator, and those two arrogant knuckleheads, Gowan and Biggs are generals in the dictatorship. Wake up Arizona. Even their mouthpiece, the Arizona Repulsive finds it hard to accept their tactics. But arrogance knows no limits. Can you imagine if Napolitano did ANY of these actions what the backlash would be?

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