The attorney who plagiarized U.S. Supreme Court justices in her quest for a spot on the Arizona Court of Appeals has revised her application to delete the offending passages.
Kristina Reeves, an attorney in private practice and a former Arizona assistant attorney general, submitted the revisions Tuesday after the suspicious text caught the eye of Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales.
She replaced the plagiarized passages with a cluster of name-dropping of Supreme Court justices she failed to cite the first time around, including Warren Burger, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Antonin Scalia.
In an email early on June 12, Blanca Moreno, the Judicial Nominating Commission administrator, informed Reeves of the plagiarism, saying the lawyer quoted “verbatim from Justice Neil Gorsuch’s 2017 opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Reeves stole multiple passages of Gorsuch’s confirmation speech, altering it minimally to suit her gender.In a passage stolen from Gorsuch’s speech, Reeves wrote that she wants to don the “honest black polyester” robe and become part of an honest judiciary.
“Putting on a robe should remind a judge that it’s time to lose her ego, and open her mind,” she wrote.
Gorsuch also mentioned “honest black polyester.” Reeves removed that from her answer.
In another passage that was minimally changed from the previous version, Reeves parrots Gorsuch and Alito without citing either, leaving in phrases like “words matter” and that a judge has a responsibility to “apply the law based on the words in the law.” Reeves also didn’t attribute the idea that “a legal case is not just a number or a name; it is a person, it is a life story.”
Likewise, she said “obligation to follow the law wherever it goes, means that a judge will reach decisions that she does not like.”
The opening paragraph was made up of 120 consecutive words she plagiarized from Gorsuch.
The U.S. Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment.
Moreno said in an email to Reeves that Bales asked her to bring the matter to Reeves’ attention “in the event you have additional information in this regard that you would like the Nominating Commission to consider.”
Reeves replied seven minutes later saying it was not her intention to include anything “inappropriate” in her statement, adding that while she does not believe there is anything in the statement that is “improper,” she would prefer to “eliminate any concern.”
Reeves eventually responded with her modified answer, saying she attempted to remove any language she thought could “possibly be viewed as similar to anything any justice has said.”
Her original answer included 400 words out of roughly 1,000 that were directly lifted from the two justices.
Mark Harrison, an attorney whose practice includes defending attorneys at the State Bar, said it’s not certain if this type of offense would warrant a Bar charge, but he thinks it is definitely warranted.
“She did something most of us would consider dishonest,” he said. “The only issue is who will file it? People responsible for application process might. Anybody can file it, really. The Bar can file one itself.”
When a charge is filed, the Bar goes through a preliminary screening stage and decides if it’s a matter the Bar has jurisdiction over. It then would send Reeves a letter asking for her explanation on why she did this in the first place. If the Bar is not satisfied with her reasoning, the two parties can come to a consent agreement, Harrison said.
The first sanction would be an admonition, then a probation, and after that would be a reprimand, but none of the three would involve a suspension of her law license.
A suspension could be anywhere from 30 days to four years, and the worst sanction is disbarment – which is five years.
“I can’t imagine this would trigger that kind of a sanction,” Harrison said.
Reeves did not respond to several attempts for comment.
Issuing a supplement to an application is not rare; three others seeking the Court of Appeals vacancy had to do the same, but the others are minor in comparison.
Rusty Crandell, who currently works in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, inadvertently answered “no” instead of “yes” on a question of whether he is physically and mentally able to perform the essential duties of a judge.
Andrew Jacobs updated his application with new information since his previous application for Justice John Pelander’svacancy.
And Jay Polk, a judge on the Maricopa County Superior Court, had issues hyperlinking to email addresses for attorneys he mentioned in his application.
I write to take exception to the op-ed about the nomination of Bill Montgomery to our state Supreme Court, written by Mark Harrison and published on Aug. 16. I do not know Harrison, but I have known Montgomery in various capacities for many years. Having written a graduate thesis on U.S. Supreme Court nominees and nominations, I’d also like to think I know something about judicial qualifications and history.
First, Harrison writes a great deal about the need for diversity on our Supreme Court – in a short op-ed, Harrison uses the word three times. Apparently, however, diversity only means the same experience most others have had with political viewpoints only Harrison shares – definitions of diversity new and unique to any dictionary. Indeed, it has been a longtime practice of many presidents to think diversity actually also
means diversity of experience and not exclusively appointing judges who see things through the lens or qualification of having been a judge on a lower court. This would be true of those who’ve made our judicial history as especially magnificent as it is, including great jurists from John Marshall to Louis Brandeis to Robert Jackson (whom Arizona’s own William Rehnquist clerked for). They, and many others, had not previously sat as judges prior to their service on the U.S. Supreme Court. Looking at the law, at various kinds of cases and controversies, simply does not require, and never did, prior judicial experience. After all, the vast majority of our nation’s law professors, those who teach the law, have rarely if ever sat as any kind of judge. Diversity should include diversity of experience and views of the law from various perches, not just one. Most presidents and historians (never mind law schools) have understood that.
Second, Harrison completely bypasses the last decade of good and noble work Montgomery has engaged in as a public servant. The fact that people have the luxury to forget the shape of county government when Montgomery first took office at the end of 2010 is a testament to how far he has brought the County Attorney’s Office and the dramatic shift in how county leaders now work together instead of sue each other. Additionally, the failure of the media to report on all the support, from past state bar presidents, criminal defense attorneys, formerly incarcerated offenders, and community leaders from various points on the political spectrum, permits critics to paint a false picture of Montgomery’s qualifications and accomplishments.
Finally, the focus on the new Commission on Appellate Court Appointments as the reason the governor can now appoint Montgomery should be seen as a correction, not a criticism. As one of the people listed as a reference for Montgomery, and the friend of several others, I can tell you that the biggest difference between the current composition of the Appellate Court Commission and the previous iteration was just how serious they took their work. During the previous vacancy, I was never contacted nor were many others. Had I been and had those who sent in letters of support been contacted, the various criticisms and concerns raised about Montgomery’s candidacy could have been readily addressed. This time, Commission members charged with doing their due diligence actually did their job. I was asked about a number of concerns that my personal experience with Montgomery gave me the opportunity to directly address. That should have happened the first time.
Fortunately, a much more thorough and fair review occurred during this current vacancy process and now Montgomery is where he should be, before the governor for consideration to serve us as an associate justice. Montgomery is a West Point Graduate, decorated Gulf War Veteran, magna cum laude graduate in the top 10% of his class from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, and a distinguished public servant who spends almost all his non-family free time assisting charitable endeavors. His service, his experience, his accomplishments, along with his commitment to transparency and access to the media and public, make him a perfect candidate for our State’s highest court.
Seth Leibsohn is a radio host on KKNT-AM, a senior fellow at The Claremont Institute and chairman of notMYkid.
Gov. Doug Ducey now faces a moment of truth that will have a major impact on his political legacy. A moment that will tell us whether he believes in the appointment of judges based on merit as required by the Arizona Constitution. A moment that tells us whether he believes in a Supreme Court that is diverse and nonpartisan.
It was reported in the media that Ducey supported expansion of the Supreme Court from five to seven members so he could add appointees who would add diversity to the court and presumably share his views. The governor appointed two well-qualified men to fill the additional seats.
However, it was more recently reported in the media that the governor added four new members to the Commission on Appellate Appointments (two Republicans and two independents, one who was a former Republican precinct committee person) so that he could make certain that County Attorney Bill Montgomery, one of the applicants for the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, would be on the list sent to him by the commission. This, despite the fact that Montgomery was soundly rejected by the commission four months ago.
In an op-ed article last month, I joined 20 past State Bar of Arizona presidents and called the governor’s attention to the fact that the Constitution requires the Nominating Commission and the court to be diverse and nonpartisan and that the overriding consideration in appointments to all of our courts must be merit. The views of commissioners reported in the media following Montgomery’s first appearance before the commission indicate that he was regarded as one of the least qualified of those seeking an appointment to the Supreme Court. Significantly, nothing in Montgomery’s record changed between his first appearance and his appearance before the commission last week.
Despite this history, Montgomery was nonetheless included on the list sent to the governor. The only change between Montgomery’s first and second appearance was in the political composition of the commission – all of the governor’s recent appointees voted to include Montgomery on the list sent to the governor.
Arizona has a judiciary recognized nationally for its excellence. As the result of the merit selection system, Arizona has been spared the unseemly partisan elections fueled by millions of dollars of special interest money. If the governor wants his legacy to reflect his commitment to merit selection and to an impartial, nonpartisan judiciary, he will appoint one of the several highly qualified candidates on the list sent to him – one without Montgomery’s political baggage and lack of appellate experience.
Mark I. Harrison is an attorney with Osborn Maledon in Phoenix.
More than one year after voters in Coconino County opted to allow judges to be appointed through merit selection, the commission to nominate them has taken shape.
Coconino County in 2018 became the first county to switch from electing judges to appointing them through this process, joining Maricopa, Pima and Pinal as the only counties to do so. Gov. Doug Ducey appointed 12 people to be on the Coconino Commission on Trial Court Appointments, and so far all of whom the state Senate confirmed.
Coconino is now the only county with fewer than 250,000 people to participate in merit selection, though the process has taken a year or so to finally hit the ground running.
Of the 12 people Ducey appointed, four are Republican, five are Democrat and three are independent. The political makeup of this commission looks nothing like the Commission on Appellate Court Commission, which vets candidates for both divisions of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, which has no Democrats.
The 12 Coconino commissioners will vet judges for appointments in the county. Compared to the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, the trial court commissions handle appointments slightly different, though in an equally convoluted way.
Each county supervisor is required to create their own sub-commission of seven members (which also has bipartisan requirements) to vet their picks to the full commission, which chooses the judicial nominees that go to the governor and Senate for confirmation.
Typically the candidates would have to go through the Senate Judiciary Committee before getting a full vote from the Senate, but due to COVID-19, the Senate fast-tracked some of Ducey’s picks on March 18 by going through the Senate Rules Committee on party lines. The rest also went through rules.
The inaugural Coconino County Trial Court Commission is now made up of Democrats Dural Browning, Myrna Goldstein, Marilyn Ruggles, Noah Stalvey and Rose Winkeler; Republicans Benjamin Crysler, Randon Cupp, Mari Goodman, David VanBoxtaele; and the three independents Roberta A. Mcvickers, Tevis Reich, and Julie Woodward. Nobody from supervisorial district 5 has been appointed yet, and the justice who will chair this commission is likely to be Justice James Beene, though Vice Chief Justice Ann Scott Timmer doesn’t chair any of the commissions.
Ducey is on track to become the governor with the most appointments in state history, with one more pick to put him tied with Gov. Bruce Babbitt and plenty more to make even before Coconino County faces its first vacancy, whenever that may be.
A prominent Phoenix attorney wrote a letter on the day he died last month to endorse his colleague for the Arizona Supreme Court.
On January 22, John Bouma, 82, of Snell & Wilmer, was struck by two cars on Seventh Street near Orangewood Avenue in Phoenix and was pronounced dead at a hospital around 9 p.m. Hours earlier, he had sent a letter to the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments on behalf of fellow Snell & Wilmer attorney Andrew Jacobs.
“I have known Andrew for many years, and I want to add a note of enthusiastic support,” Bouma wrote.
Jacobs said he and Bouma worked together sporadically over the 17 years Jacobs was at Snell & Wilmer.
Jacobs said that Bouma writing a letter on his behalf was very kind, and he is still affected by his loss.
“I am profoundly saddened by his passing. It’s upsetting to discuss. … He had another good 10-15 years in him,” Jacobs said.
Bouma was well-respected and well-connected throughout Arizona and is credited with growing the Snell & Wilmer law firm from one local office to nine firms across the western U.S. and Mexico, increasing from about 100 attorneys to more than 450. He spent 32 years as head of Snell & Wilmer and represented three Arizona governors, most notably Jan Brewer in 2010 after she signed the controversial SB1070, a wide-ranging measure aimed at giving the state more power to deal with the issue of illegal immigration.
In a post to her Facebook page, Brewer wrote: “John was an extraordinary man and excellent attorney … his commitment to State extended to his long-time effort to help the indigent with legal representation and his impact on the legal profession in Arizona will not be forgotten. RIP John.”
In Bouma’s letter, he talked about Jacobs’ history within the firm.
“Andrew has a first rate mind, is called upon to solve some of our clients’ most difficult problems, and is an extremely dedicated and diligent individual,” Bouma wrote.
Jacobs is one of 11 remaining applicants vying for Justice John Pelander’s seat that will be vacated on March 1. Part of the process in appointing a Supreme Court Justice is an open meeting where members of the public can speak in favor or against any of the applicants, and can also write letters to the commission. Bouma’s letter was sent three days before the applicants were announced and is one of 140 letters the commission received. On February 6, Jacobs made it to the interview stage along with 10 other applicants. Jacobs is only one of two Democrats to apply.
Jacobs said he was privileged to work with Bouma and was “always struck by his judgment and concern for others.”
Former Sen. Jon Kyl and Gov. Doug Ducey knew Bouma as well. Kyl told The Arizona Republic, “He was a good companion, and I will miss him greatly.”
Ducey posted to his Twitter, “[I’m] deeply saddened by news of friend, legal giant, and leader John Bouma. Prayers go out to his family, colleagues at Snell & Wilmer and all who knew him.”
Both Bouma and Jacobs grew up in the Midwest. Bouma in small town Iowa, Jacobs in Illinois. Jacobs was a partner at the Chicago law firm, Jenner & Block for nearly two years before moving to Tucson.
Bouma mentioned Jacobs’ Midwest background in his letter and touched on other qualities Jacobs has that “we would hope to find in our judges.”
“Andrew knows his way around litigation, both at the trial and appellate levels, and he definitely knows what is going on in the courtroom. … I hope the committee will give Andrew strong and favorable consideration,” he wrote.
On the Snell & Wilmer website, Bouma’s biography reads, “John Bouma, former firm chair, passed away on January 22, 2019 after a long and distinguished legal career and a record of outstanding service to his community. He was an honorable advocate on behalf of his clients, endeavored to be fair, demonstrated a genuine respect for all, worked to elevate the standards of the profession and did so with humility and integrity. We will miss our friend, colleague and mentor.”
There will be a celebration of his life on the afternoon of February 22.
When Gov. Doug Ducey appointed three people to a commission largely unknown to the public, Democratic senators tasked with confirming the appointees decried them as pawns in the governor’s attempt to ensure Arizona bucks its changing demographics and remains in Republican hands for the next decade.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments (CACA) is mostly tasked with vetting candidates for Ducey to appoint to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. But it also winnows the list of applicants to the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission, which draws the political boundaries once a decade.
In the past, parties have routinely accused the IRC of gerrymandering districts.
In the past few years, Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, has accused Gov. Doug Ducey of stacking CACA with his Republican allies to ensure the redistricting process will result in Republicans majorities at the state Capitol and in Arizona’s congressional delegation, even as Arizona increases turns purple in its political makeup.
“In order to retain that power, [Republicans] have to ensure that the people drawing the map for these legislative and congressional districts are going to be acting in their best interests rather than in the interest of drawing fair maps,” he said.
Quezada, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with providing initial recommendations for Senate appointments to CACA, pointed out that the governor has not appointed any Democrat and rarely ever appointed people of color to the commission.
The Arizona Constitution requires CACA to reflect the diversity of the state, and Quezada argues its current makeup does not. The commission is made up of seven Republicans and five independents, and only one person of color.
CACA is supposed to have 15 total members – five attorneys and 10 members of the public. Currently, it has three vacancies, and one term expired last month. But Democrats’ biggest complaint is that not one member is a Democrat.
While most states allow elected lawmakers to draw their legislative and congressional districts, Arizona’s five-person IRC – made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent chair who is the swing vote – creates the political maps.
Democrats fear thismeans Republicans and independents on the commission, all of whom have strong right-leaning views, could sway the IRC’s decisions by narrowing down a long list of applicants for the IRC and picking candidates who are political allies.
Matthew Contorelli was the VP of government affairs at the Arizona Commerce Authority when Ducey appointed him in 2019. He is also the son-in-law of Rep. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott. And Kathryn Townsend was a GOP precinct committeeman up until 2012.
CACA will winnow the hundreds of applicants to a list of 25 nominees — 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and five independents. The Senate president, House speaker, Senate minority leader and House minority leader each picks one partisan member for the IRC. Those four commissioners will then pick the IRC chair from the list of five independents that CACA selects.
In theory, this means the commission’s ideological makeup is equal – two registered Republicans, two registered Democrats and a registered independent.
In practice, Democrats could be ideologically right-leaning, Republicans could be left-leaning and the independent on the commission could lean either way.
For example, Republicans viewed the last redistricting go-round as a win for Democrats.
And if CACA can winnow the hundreds of applicants to allow only five right-leaning independents to proceed, the prevailing sentiment is it’s game over for Democrats during redistricting.
The Senate confirmed Ducey’s three most recent picks to the commission on Feb. 18. The vote occurred along party lines, but Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said Ducey failed to comply don’t comply with the Arizona Constitution’s diversity clause.
That clause says “the makeup of the committee shall, to the extent feasible, reflect the diversity of the population of the state.”
“We believe that this process amounts to a disregard of your constitutional duty as described in Article 6, Section 36. We demand that you withdraw the most recent nominees you have sent to the Legislature and, instead, adopt a constitutionally compliant process intended to ‘endeavor to see that the commission reflects the diversity of Arizona’s population,’” they told Ducey in a letter.
Senate Republicans reject the Democrats’ argument.
Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, said in a committee hearing last year that Democrats are judging nominees based on the color of their skin rather than on merit.
“None of them said they weren’t qualified. They just questioned, in essence, their race or their gender,” Gray said.
His fellow Republican members on the committee, and also Ducey’s Office, have argue there are other ways to determine “diversity.”
Ducey’s general counsel, Anni Foster, wrote an op-ed in 2019 to defend Bill Montgomery’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and insisted the commission is diverse.
“As an example of the diversity this process affords, the commission currently includes several veterans, a mother who was the first in her family to attend college, a retiree, a public lawyer and private attorneys, to name a few,” she wrote.
Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said the Governor’s Office believes it is important to find representation from parts of Arizona outside Maricopa County. CACA rules state no more than two members may hail from the same county.
Ptak said the numerous nominations from last April show they comply with diversity and said there’s no requirement that a Democrat has to be on the commission.
“The party requirement only limits appointments to five members of the same party. It makes no other requirements,” Ptak said, referring specifically to the requirement that says no more than half of the non-attorneys on the commission can come from the same party.
Ducey’s three recent appointees are Jonathan Paton, a former lawmaker; Laura Ciscomani, who is from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and wife of a Ducey staffer; and Horace Buchanan Davis, the former state director for U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. All are re-appointments, and all are Republicans.
Paton was the Senate Judiciary Chair during the leadup to the 2010 redistricting effort, which political pundits widely considered a big win for the Democrats.
Constantin Querard, a GOP political consultant, said how this works is part of the political game.
“The great con in the Independent Redistricting Commission was selling people on the idea that this was going to take politics out of politics,” he said.
Querard said it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat or Republican as governor, it’s still going to be very political. He pointed to the 2010 redistricting process, when Gov. Janet Napolitano made her appointments to the commission and Democrats “won” redistricting.
CACA in 2010 narrowed the field of independent candidates to five and Colleen Mathis, who was more Democratic-leaning, was picked as IRC chair. And before that there was Steve Lynn, the 2001 IRC chair, who was more Republican-leaning.
Mathis routinely voted with the commission’s two Democrats and against its two GOP members. The result was districts that Republicans alleged were crafted to benefit Democrats, especially in the congressional map, which Mathis and a Democratic commissioner were alleged to have drawn with the assistance of the Arizona Democratic Party.
The GOP-dominated Legislature impeached Mathis, an action that the Arizona Supreme Court later reversed.
“When you have Democratic governors, the commission lo and behold magically favors Democrats by three to two,” Querard said. “As traditional as it is for the process to be political, it is equally traditional for the party out of power to decry politics.”
It’s clear Ducey has long had his eye on the IRC, and has been working to ensure that the state’s Republican majority extends beyond his governorship.
Ducey — with the help of former Chief of Staff Kirk Adams, who was speaker of the House during the last redistricting cycle — made his first appointments to the commission just mere days after swearing in as governor in 2015.
Since he was first elected as governor, Ducey has appointed or reappointed21 people to CACA. Only one was a Democrat – Monica Klapper, a lawyer originally appointed by former Gov. Jan Brewer. When Klapper’s term expired last year, she was replaced by a Republican.
At one point, Quezada accused Ducey’s Office of imposing an early January deadline for applicants to the commission at the last minute to try to winnow out Democrats who might apply, potentially disadvantaging the minority party.
“There was very little advertisement and a short deadline,” Quezada said. “What that implies to me is the Ninth Floor is identifying individuals, prepping them beforehand, getting them the time to get that [application] done, and then establishing a short window for applications.”
Senate Republicans confirmed five nominees to the state Commission on Appellate Court Appointments Tuesday over Democratic objections that Gov. Doug Ducey and the Senate failed to meet a constitutional requirement that the commission reflects Arizona’s population.
The commission, consisting of five attorneys, 10 non-attorneys and the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, is responsible for recommending judicial applicants to Ducey and nominating candidates to serve on the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission.
With the Senate’s confirmation, the commission now has 13 appointed members, four of which are women, one is a person of color and none are Democrats.
Democratic senators contend the balance should be different to accurately reflect Arizona’s population. Women make up a slight majority in the state; close to one-third of the state’s residents are Hispanic or Latino; and registered Republicans, registered Democrats and people not affiliated with either major party each make up about one-third of the electorate.
Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, called the appointment process “blatantly skewed,” noting that former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano nominated seven Republicans to the commission when she was in office.
“Arizona’s population continues to change and diversify itself on a daily basis, but if you look at the list of folks being nominated, it does not reflect that diversity,” Rios said.
Republicans, including Sen. Sonny Borelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said the nominees are qualified and do represent diversity because four of them are women and one, Laura Ciscomani, is Latina. Ciscomani, a registered Republican whose husband is a senior advisor to Ducey, previously worked for the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“I find it striking that she’s a person of color but maybe not dark enough,” Borelli said. “I’m trying to figure out what the issue is — that she’s not Latina enough or that she’s Republican?”
Senate Republicans invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s line from his “I Have a Dream” speech about wanting his four children to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Democrats were judging nominees based on the color of their skin, Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, said in a Republican caucus meeting Tuesday morning.
“None of them said they weren’t qualified,” Gray said. “They just questioned, in essence, their race or their gender.”
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, called the use of that King quote “verbal jujitsu” that completely ignores the context and history around it.
“We are nowhere close to being in a place where we can judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin because there are systematic institutions in place,” he said.
The makeup of the commission is important because they’re the people who help select judges, Quezada said. If the commissioners who recommend judges and the judges they recommend don’t reflect the state’s diversity, people in Arizona won’t trust that they’ll receive fair treatment in courts, he said.
“We have a system set up to ensure that every nominee who appears before us on paper is going to continue the status quo,” he said. “At the end of the day, we know it’s likely going to be male, it’s likely going to be Anglo, it’s likely going to be a conservative Republican.”
Quezada also alleged Ducey is trying to stack the commission to create a redistricting commission that will draw legislative district lines in favor of Republicans. The state Constitution requires that the five-member redistricting commission consist of two Republicans and two Democrats selected by party leaders and one independent selected by the other four commissioners. The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is tasked with collecting applications and nominating 25 people — 10 from each party and five independents.
Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said the governor’s office thought it was important to find representation from parts of Arizona outside Maricopa County. Ciscomani lives in Pima County, nominee Matthew Contorreli in Yavapai County and nominee Kathryn Townsend in Pinal County. Nominees Tracy Munsil and Linley Wilson, an attorney with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office who was vetted by the state bar, both live in Maricopa County.
“We absolutely consider diversity when making appointments, as demonstrated by the current round of nominations,” Ptak said.
The rules for the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments state no more than two members may hail from the same county anyway.
While none of the governor’s current nominees are Democrats, Ptak said that diversity will continue to play a factor in Ducey’s nominations for the remaining two vacancies on the commission.
Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Bill Montgomery to the Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon, making the controversial Maricopa County attorney Ducey’s fifth selection to the state’s highest court.
Montgomery’s appointment is Ducey’s second to the Supreme Court in 2019, and it’s also the second time Montgomery was up for the job. Montgomery failed to make it past a vetting procedure by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, but a revamped commission – with a number of new commissioners appointed by Ducey – advanced Montgomery as one of seven candidates for the governor to consider in July.
The governor, who tweeted his announcement, said he was looking for a justice who “had an understanding of the law, a well-developed judicial philosophy, appreciation for the separation of powers and a dedication to public service… More broadly, I was looking for an individual who wants to interpret the law – not someone who wants to write the law.”
“Bill Montgomery is that candidate,” Ducey wrote.
Ducey has already appointed Justices Clint Bolick, John Lopez, Andrew Gould and – earlier this year – James Beene.
Montgomery is clearly Ducey’s most controversial appointment in just under five years as governor. His appointment to the court was harshly opposed by the ACLU of Arizona and other progresive organization who criticized his political track record.
Opponents cited, among other critiques, prosecutorial misconduct that went unchecked under Montgomery’s watch in Maricopa County; a bungled use-of-force case in which Glendale police used an electronic stun gun on a man; and Montgomery’s well-known personal beliefs, such as his staunch opposition to marijuana, sentencing reform and certain LGBT rights.
Montgomery’s appointment leaves a vacancy for the Maricopa County attorney. A temporary replacement will be chosen by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to hold the seat until the next election in 2020.
So far, only four Democrats have filed to run, but a Republican must be appointed to the seat to finish off Montgomery’s term.
House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez this afternoon picked Democrat Shereen Lerner to serve on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a decision that came only a few hours after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge denied a request from Democratic legislative leadership for a temporary restraining order to halt the nomination process.
Lerner, a professor of anthropology at Mesa Community College and historic preservationist who’s active in Tempe civic life, wrote in her application that she had studied election systems from an anthropological perspective and was interested in applying that knowledge at the IRC.
“Shereen Lerner was far and away the most qualified candidate we interviewed, and I’m proud to select her for this vital role in our state’s history,” Fernandez said today in a written statement. “Redistricting is an intense and highly challenging process that requires a combination of intelligence, communication skills and strength of character to succeed. That is exactly what Dr. Lerner will bring to the Commission.”
The pick of the first candidate from Maricopa County still leaves some flexibility for Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, who pick next in that order. No more than two of the picks from legislative leaders can be from Maricopa County or from either party. Fann must make her choice within the next seven days.
“Creating fair and competitive legislative and Congressional districts that reflect Arizona’s diverse population and communities of interest is an incredible responsibility, and I will carry out those duties to the best of my abilities at all times,” Lerner said in a written statement.
Fernandez would have preferred not to make the announcement today, as Democrats argued that House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ pick — the earliest a House Speaker has made their choice since the commission’s inception — was premature.
Fernandez and Bradley filed a lawsuit last week against the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments shortly after Bowers on Oct. 22 picked David Mehl, a prominent Republican from Tucson. Historically, the Speaker has made the first pick in the year ending in one.
But Judge Janice Crawford ruled late this morning that while the Arizona Constitution sets a deadline for IRC picks, it says nothing about how early the process can begin. Crawford also said that Democrats failed to explain why they did not file their request for a TRO prior to Bowers’ pick, given that their legal argument for why the order is necessary is that two of the independent candidates — Thomas Loquvam and Robert Wilson — are not qualified, a case that Democrats have been pleading for weeks.
“As set forth above, Plaintiffs had acted to oppose Mr. Loquvam’s and Mr. Wilson’s applications and, thus, knew the facts on which they contend Mr. Loquvam and Mr. Wilson are unqualified,” Crawford wrote. “Any irreparable injury is caused by Plaintiffs waiting until after the Speaker made his appointment to seek the Court’s intervention.”
In explaining her ruling on the TRO, Crawford signaled that she did not believe that the case to remove Loquvam and Wilson from consideration for the IRC was likely to succeed on its merits.
Democrats filed the suit a day after Bowers made his pick, alleging that because Loquvam was a lobbyist with EPCOR and Wilson held a Trump rally at his Flagstaff gun store they were not qualified to chair the IRC.
The state constitution bans paid lobbyists from serving on the commission if they were active in the prior three years. While the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments winnowed out IRC candidates who were registered as legislative lobbyists, they did not do the same for Loquvam, who is registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
“It is undisputed that Mr. Loquvam disclosed that he was registered as a lobbyist with the ACC. While the Court, at this stage, may consider Plaintiffs’ position to have some merit, the Court declines to substitute its opinion on the qualifications of a nominee who was fully vetted by the CACA,” Crawford wrote.
She added that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they would be “deprived of making their selection or will have lost an opportunity to select a candidate that did not become part of the pool because of Mr. Loquvam’s nomination.”
As for Wilson, who owns a gun store in Flagstaff, Crawford said it’s “undisputed that Mr. Wilson has been registered as an Independent for three or more years prior to the appointment” and that “it is unlikely that the CACA was not fully apprised on the facts under which Plaintiffs contend Mr. Wilson is not unbiased.”
In general, she seems intent to respect the role of the commission in vetting candidates, writing that the public’s interest in ensuring that the IRC is composed of “qualified individuals” is secured through the commission’s process.
Earlier this week, Jim Barton, the attorney representing Democratic legislative leadership, told the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Capitol Times, that the case wouldn’t become “moot” even if the judge denies the TRO, as the plaintiffs wanted to ensure that Bradley had a qualified pool of applicants.
Today’s ruling didn’t shake his belief in the chances of the suit, he said.
“I understand the court’s ruling … but I don’t think it has any impact on our ability to litigate against two candidates who in our opinion are not qualified,” Barton said. “Courts take briefing for a reason. We will brief on the merits of our argument, we will have an opportunity to take some depositions and put on evidence.”
He continued: “I think what is going to happen in effect now is we’re going to be litigating over who’s gonna be qualified to serve as the independent chair.”
Megan Carollo, a flower shop owner in Scottsdale, is the new fifth independent candidate hoping to chair the next Independent Redistricting Commission.
Carollo replaced Nicole Cullen, a teacher at Chandler Unified who abruptly withdrew from consideration after commissioners selected her as a finalist. Cullen’s decision came with little information – only a brief comment from a court spokeswoman that it involved “family circumstances.”
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments met on Oct. 20 to send the Legislature its final list of 25 candidates as required by the state Constitution. The commissioners’ deliberation lasted only a few minutes, and they decided to choose from the candidates they had already interviewed. They quickly settled on Carollo, who narrowly didn’t make the initial cut after facing a run-off vote with Robert Wilson.
Two factors kept Carollo off the original list. First, Wilson is from Coconino County, which satisfied requirements to avoid having four candidates from Maricopa County. Second, a few commissioners raised concerns that Carollo, who owns her own business and “seems nice,” can’t handle the pressure and scrutiny that comes with chairing a highly politicized process.
Kathryn Townsend, an independent on the commission, was Carollo’s harshest critic.
“I just did not believe from her interview that she’s got the personality that can keep order in chaos. I just don’t,” Townsend said during the meeting on Oct. 8. “I just think we need to be looking for people who can keep order.”
Bill Gresser, a commissioner from Yuma County, echoed that sentiment.
“The independent is gonna have to be fairly tough because [he or she] will either bring a coalition or will be a tiebreaker,” Gresser said. “Megan Carollo has a lot of experience, a lot of enthusiasm, but I’d be afraid that she would be [steamrolled] by the folks with political agendas.”
Some commissioners countered the criticism.
Danny Seiden, one of the five attorneys on the commission and Gov. Doug Ducey’s former deputy chief of staff, said though Carollo came off as “nice” and a “sweet person” in her interview, “those two things don’t equate with being steamrolled.”
Seiden also defended Carollo by noting her high-stress job – having to work weddings and owning a small business during two economic downturns.
An aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, a former top attorney for the state’s largest utility company and a former attorney at the Goldwater Institute are among 39 applicants for the chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
The person selected to lead the commission will become the most important person in Arizona politics for the next few years as he or she will be the deciding vote for mapping out the state’s congressional and legislative districts for the upcoming decade.
The IRC chair cannot be registered with a political party. The inaugural IRC chair in 2000 voted with the two Republican members on the five-person commission more than not. And in 2010 the chair voted with the Democrats.
Ducey, a Republican, has been working since the early days in his first term to assure that Republicans win this next round of redistricting. Democrats have accused Ducey of stacking the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, the body that vets IRC candidates, as well as judicial nominees.
The state Supreme Court was a big factor in the 2010 cycle and could potentially come into play again. Ducey has appointed five of the seven justices – four are Republicans and the other is a conservative-leaning independent.
The job of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is to winnow down the total list of IRC applicants to 25 – 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and five independents. History has shown that for this cycle both political parties will want an independent chair who leans their way to gain a majority on the five-member panel.
here are several candidates who run in Arizona’s political circles or have been known to work behind the scenes that could make it onto the final list of five, come 2021.
Alec Esteban Thomson, the director of strategic initiatives under Ducey, applied for the job.
Thomson, a Maricopa County resident, previously served as the COO of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. He has an immense resume and one that would appear to go against the narrative of picking a chair with strong Republican leanings.
Thomson has only given money to Democrats through ActBlue ($50 in 2015), he worked with the Human Rights Campaign to elect Hillary Clinton as president in 2016 and he was the chief of staff to former Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, a Democrat. But he also worked for Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and is credited recently with working on Ducey’s Mask Up AZ campaign and helping get people to fill out their Census data.
Thomas Loquvam, the general counsel at EPCOR and former Pinnacle West general counsel, also applied for the job. Loquvam left APS’s parent company in April 2019 after nine years. He spent a lot of his time arguing on behalf of the utility at the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Loquvam, the brother of outgoing APS lobbyist Jessica Pacheco, also has ties to the Greater Phoenix Chamber and is registered as a lobbyist for EPCOR, which is a violation of the IRC requirements. However, in his application, Loquvam said he is not a paid lobbyist.
“The nature of my responsibilities with EPCOR require that I register as a lobbyist with the Arizona Corporation Commission … in order to speak with any Commissioner on virtually any issue,” he wrote, adding that he included this information “in an abundance of caution.” He said he is not “specifically paid to lobby.”
Loquvam, a Maricopa County resident, also signed a notarized document stating he will not register as a paid lobbyist during his term on the IRC, if appointed. The term will last 10 years. As of August 27, Loquvam is still listed as EPCOR’s lobbyist on the Corporation Commission database.
Loquvam contributed $250 to Republican Rep. Shawnna Bolick’s campaign for the state House back in 2014, an election she lost. He also contributed thousands of dollars to the Pinnacle West Political Action Committee in several installments.
Nick Dranias is a former Goldwater Institute attorney who lives in Maricopa County. Dranias contributed $250 to Jonathan Paton’s congressional campaign in 2010. Paton is one of the Republican members on the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, who Ducey reappointed to a new term earlier this year.
Dranias also gave money to Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich for his first campaign in 2014 and chipped in hundreds of dollars to a Republican federal PAC called WINRED, where he earmarked at least $100 in June to re-elect President Trump.
Outside of the state’s largest county, there’s Michael Hammond, a Pima County independent who former Governor Brewer appointed to the State Transportation Board. Hammond’s term began in 2015 and runs through 2021. Members of governmental boards or commissions are not eligible to serve on the IRC.
Mignonne Hollis of Cochise County applied for the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments multiple times over the past two years and contributed to campaigns of Republicans and Democrats. Joseph Cuffari, a former commission member who worked for Ducey, suggested Hollis apply for the commission. She also listed Rep. Gail Griffin and Sen. David Gowan, both staunch conservative Republicans, as references for those applications even though she financially contributed to one of Gowan’s previous opponents.
Hollis also contributed to campaigns for former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, a Republican, in his bid for governor in 2014, and David Garcia, a Democrat, in his bid for state superintendent of public instruction the same year. She also financially supports Planned Parenthood.
Some of the other notable independent candidates:
Christopher Bavasi, Coconino County, the former Flagstaff mayor and a supporter of Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.
Michael Chihak, Pima County, a former journalist at Arizona Public Media, the Tucson PBS station.
Joseph Citelli, Maricopa County, the chief counsel at the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
Eric Gorsenger, Maricopa County, a former Corporation Commission staffer who was the plaintiff in challenges to nominating petitions for several Republican candidates this year. He says he is a “lifelong independent.”
Leezie Kim, Maricopa County, general counsel for former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who then followed Napolitano, a Democrat, to the federal Department of Homeland Security as her deputy general counsel. Kim has contributed significantly to several Democrats including President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Congressman Greg Stanton
Steven Krenzel, Maricopa County, a Ducey-appointed member of the Arizona Industrial Commission. Ducey also appointed Krenzel to the Arizona Housing Finance Authority in 2016, where he served for six months
Lawrence Mohrweis, Maricopa County, one of 10 Democratic finalists for the IRC in 2010, who says in his application he did not get the appointment because he was “too independent.”
Erika Schupak Neuberg, Maricopa County, served as the chair of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group with several ties to Arizona lawmakers. She has also contributed roughly $25,000 to several candidates from both parties, including Ducey, Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez, Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez, Republican Rodney Glassman (in his 2018 bid for the Corporation Commission), Democratic Rep. Mitzi Epstein as well as Republican Congressman Andy Biggs, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, Republican Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, and several others.
Michael Jensen, Maricopa County, the only Libertarian to apply.
The Independent Redistricting Commission applications were made public on August 21, and a total of 138 people applied, which is more than in 2010 (79), but fewer than the inaugural commission in 2000 (311). Democrats submitted 55 of the applications and 44 Republicans applied, while 38 independents along with one Libertarian applied for the position of chairperson.
Applicants come from nine of Arizona’s 15 counties. Maricopa has 89 candidates, but no more than one per party can receive the appointment. The counties with no candidates are Yuma, Navajo, Santa Cruz, La Paz, Graham and Greenlee.
The process from this point forward will be a slog as the 16-member Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will vet all 138 applicants with the aid of public comments and interviews and eventually narrow down the list to 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and 5 independents.
Each legislative caucus leader in January 2021 will appoint one person from the narrowed list, and those four commissioners will choose the independent chair from the list of five.
A look back to 2010 shows the importance of the independent chair.
Governor Napolitano abandoned Arizona for a federal appointment one year before redistricting kicked off, leaving Governor Brewer to try to remedy as much of the process to sway in the favor of Republicans, but it appeared to be too-little-too-late.
So once the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments narrowed the list to 25 finalists, the Republican legislative leaders tried to send the vetting group back to the drawing board.
House Speaker Kirk Adams – Ducey’s eventual chief of staff – and Senate President Russell Pearce demanded two Republican finalists and one independent finalist pull out of consideration. The Republicans, Mark Schnepf and Steve Sossaman, agreed, but the independent, Paul Bender refused.
Critics at the time considered this a tactic to remove Bender given his liberal leanings even as an independent.
The four partisan picks eventually named Colleen Mathis the chair and work was set to begin. After a series of decisions that did not favor Republicans, Brewer called for Mathis’ removal, which received the required two-thirds approval from the state Senate. At the time, Republicans controlled the chamber 21-9.
“I will not sit idly by while Arizona’s congressional and legislative boundaries are drawn in a fashion that is anything but constitutional and proper,” Brewer said at the time.
Brewer accused Mathis of improperly conducting commission business in violation of the state’s open meeting laws, and skewing the redistricting in favor of Democrats. Tom Horne, the attorney general at the time, launched an investigation into the allegation and Brewer subsequently began the successful attempt at impeaching Mathis.
The process to replace Mathis began, but the Arizona Supreme Court eventually reinstated her to the chair position in November of 2011. Arizona picked up a ninth congressional seat from the 2010 Census. It was considered a competitive seat that went to Sinema, a Democrat, who held the seat in every election until her run for U.S. Senate two years ago.
The only congressional seat to flip back and forth, since the ninth seat began in 2012, was the 2nd Congressional District in Pima County. The 2012 election had Democrat Ron Barber defeat Republican challenger Martha McSally by a hair. McSally then defeated Barber after a recount in 2014. She held it for two terms before Kirkpatrick won in 2018 over Republican Lea Marquez Peterson.
This year is the final election cycle of the 2010 redistricting, which could result in one or both chambers of the state Legislature in Democratic control and the possibility of a 6-3 congressional split if Democrat Hiral Tipirneni can unseat Republican Congressman David Schwerikert in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed four Republicans and a Libertarian to the Arizona Supreme Court. The governor has actually appointed no Libertarians, but he has appointed one independent.
A Republican lawmaker is reviving an effort to change the makeup of Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, the body responsible for redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional district maps once a decade.
That’s fine with Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, a progressive organization that opposed efforts to alter the IRC in 2018 because of proposed changes to the rules governing how district lines are drawn. But there was no opposition to expanding the commission from five members to nine, Edman said.
Under Rep. John Fillmore’s proposal, party leaders at the legislature would be responsible for appointing three Republican and three Democratic commissioners. Another three commissioners must be independents. The three-way split better represents Arizona voter, supporters say, since roughly a third of voters aren’t affiliated with a political party.
It also helps ensure the redistricting process, which will begin anew in 2021, can’t be hijacked by Republican or Democratic interests, Fillmore said.
Currently, commissioners are chosen from a pool of 25 candidates vetted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Republican and Democratic legislative leaders get to choose two commissioners each from the pool. Those four commissioners must then select a fifth candidate, typically an independent or anyone who’s neither a Republican or Democrat, to serve as chair of the IRC.
With just one independent, the process was prone to criticism that the lone non-political commissioner was biased.
“I don’t necessarily think that was true, but that was the accusation I used to hear,” Fillmore said of the last redistricting process.
Fillmore also wants the nine commissioners to elect by majority vote one of their members, of any political affiliation, to serve as chair and another as vice-chair, rather than have an independent commissioner serve as de facto chair.
“That’s not the whole idea of the redistricting commission,” Fillmore said. “I’m not in favor in anyway for the Legislature manipulating or having authority over that in any way.”
Edman said he also favors another change in Fillmore’s legislation, though it’s an idea he suspects most Republicans will oppose. Rather than have the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments vet potential IRC commissioners, Fillmore wants to give that authority to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
Clean Elections is a frequent target of GOP ire, and Republican lawmakers have a history of trying to strip the CCEC of its existing authority, not give it more power.
CCEC Executive Director Tom Collins said he appreciated Fillmore’s shout out.
“The bill’s language shows a belief that the commission’s record of bipartisan decision making makes it a better vehicle for determining IRC candidates,” Collins wrote in an email. “Mr. Fillmore has demonstrated an interest this session in making government more fair and representative, and in his view the commission can accomplish that, and as executive director, I’m pleased to have that acknowledgment.”
Collins added that CCEC will officially remain neutral on Fillmore’s legislation.
Edman will support it.
“Last time around, there was some criticism on the commission from the Appellate Court Appointments from the right, and for progressives, there’s some concern that the court is not really reflective of the state as a whole,” he said. “Clean Elections, we think, is a truly independent, nonpartisan body. Of course, I think a lot of Mr. Fillmore’s Republican colleagues feel differently.”
Fillmore said he doesn’t care what his colleagues think of Clean Elections.
Clean Elections gets a bad rap, he said, even though historically, the CCEC has been a boon for helping conservative Republicans get elected to office thanks in part to the publicly-funded campaign dollars provided to participating candidates.
“I’m here to represent my district. I’m not looking at it for partisan purposes,” Fillmore said. “I think a redistricting commission that is untied to any of that is a good thing.”
Any changes to the redistricting commission are ultimately up to voters. Fillmore’s proposal would refer a question about changing the IRC to the 2020 ballot.
The next justice on the Arizona Supreme Court will come from a list of seven candidates that includes four Court of Appeals judges, a public defender, a lawyer in private practice and a controversial county attorney.
Unlike the selection process in March to fill a previously vacant seat on the court, Maricopa County Bill Montgomery had enough votes Friday from the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments to become a finalist. He is joined by three previous finalists Kent Cattani, Maria Elena Cruz and Andrew Jacobs. Richard Gordon, who Gov. Doug Ducey interviewed in the spring, narrowly missed the cut from nine to seven choices.
Also joining the interview list is Sean Brearcliffe, a judge on the Court of Appeals Division II; David Euchner, a Pima County public defender and Randall Howe, a judge on the Court of Appeals Division I. Jennifer Perkins was not selected to advance.
As a Constitutional requirement, the commission must send at least three names to the governor, who makes the final decision, and any more than three must abide by not having more than 60 percent from the same political party. Gordon did not make the cut because of this reason.
Cruz and Jacobs are Democrats, Euchner is a Libertarian and the remaining choices are all Republican.
The commission tentatively approved eight of the candidates, but since Gordon received the fewest votes – of seven – among Republican nominees, he was voted to be struck from the final list.
The process was wildly different than when the commission found the eventual replacement to Justice John Pelander in March. For example, four new members were appointed and confirmed to the commission replacing three who did not vote for Montgomery previously, two of whom are Democrats.
Now of the 13-member commission, Now there are eight Republicans and five independents on the 13-member commission, although only 12 members showed up for the interviews.
All four new members voted for Montgomery to advance; only Phil Townsend and Larry Suciu did not vote for him.
During the due diligence portion of the process, commissioners discussed what they found out about their assigned candidates. Kathryn Townsend, a new commissioner from Pima County, conducted the check on Montgomery and told other commissioners she thinks the reason why Montgomery has a lot of opposition is because “he is a Conservative, white, Christian, cisgendered, heterosexual male,” and that people who don’t like the county attorney “don’t really know him and are responding to a caricature of him.”
Townsend added that if he didn’t make the final list it would be because “he didn’t have the right identity politics.”
Townsend is a registered independent, who self-identifies as Libertatian leaning, and was a former Republican precinct committeeman up until 2012.
Suciu conducted the due diligence on Montgomery last time, and brought it up again before voting.
He said a candidate needs to have “judicial experience” when vying for a spot on the Supreme Court. “You don’t go there for training,” he said. He also brought up last time how Montgomery mentioned in his application he was a part of four appellate cases in his career, but Suciu talked to lawyers on all four who told him he only looked over briefs. This was at least one reason why Suciu did not vote for Montgomery to advance.
Cruz became the sole candidate this time to receive unanimous approval from the 12 commissioners, which bodes well for her chances. Justice James Beene, who replaced Pelander on the court, was the only one in March to receive full support.
Cattani, Euchner and Jacobs both received 11 votes, Brearcliffe and Montgomery had 10 and Howe advanced with nine.
Another major difference from the procedure in March is Montgomery was pressed a lot harder with Justice Scott Bales (who was chief justice then) there to ask questions about his strong beliefs. That on top of an intense effort from the ACLU of Arizona was enough to keep him off the final list, but this time Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, and the other commissioners only asked Montgomery, as well as everyone else, eight questions and provided time for all candidates to speak freely about anything they would care to add.
When it came time to vote on the list to send to Ducey, one commissioner took a shot at the media for speculating some type of agenda about how the members would vote on certain candidates – specifically Montgomery.
“It’s unfair to the process,” Buchanan Davis said, likely referring to a story in the Arizona Mirror that said the new commission appointments could sway in the county attorney’s favor.
Whether that is the case is unclear, but new commissioners were among several who suggested sending a list of seven names instead of the typical five.
The list of seven candidates all would add some type of historical importance were they to be appointed by the governor.
Cattani is the only person in state history to have been in consideration for all seven Supreme Court seats. Cruz would be the first Black or Latina member on the highest court, only the second woman currently, and fifth in state history. Euchner would become the first Libertarian appointed, which came up during the post-interview discussion.
Commission member and former lawmaker Jonathan Paton brought up this piece of trivia and Brutinel quipped that his colleague Bolick would beg to differ, but Paton reminded everyone Bolick was chosen when we was registered as an independent, not as a Libertarian.
Euchner, as well as Brearcliffe would provide some Pima County representation. Pelander was the last justice to come from that county.
And lastly, Howe would become historic for a reason separate from everyone else. Howe would be the first person on the state Supreme Court with cerebral palsy.
Ducey now has 60 days to make his fifth appointment to the Supreme Court.
Their candidate squeezed out of the last screening, allies of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery are lining up to urge that he be nominated for the Arizona Supreme Court.
More than a dozen attorneys and public officials have submitted comments to the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments listing what they say are his qualifications to sit on the state’s highest court. That includes Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the state’s top prosecutor, who praised Montgomery’s “principled nature and dedication to the rule of law.”
More support is expected when the commission meets Friday to hear comments and interview the nine applicants to replace Scott Bales who retired earlier this month.
The outpouring is occurring four months after the same commission was deciding who to recommend to Gov. Doug Ducey to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of John Pelander. And Montgomery, criticized over positions taken on gay and civil rights, was not on the list of nominees.
That list is crucial: The Arizona Constitution allows him to choose only from those nominated. And if Montgomery can’t get his name on it, he can’t be considered.
What’s changed since March is that the governor has replaced several commission members, including at least three who voted not to forward his name to the governor. But gubernatorial press aide Patrick Ptak told Capitol Media Services that his boss did not decide who to reappoint and who to replace based on their positions on Montgomery.
While Montgomery’s supporters are lining up for Round 2, so are some who contend that his biases would get in the way of being a judge.
Front and center are the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal. Both are citing instances where they say Montgomery ignored the law.
One key incident both groups cite dates to 2015 when Montgomery, whose office is required to provide legal assistance to couples who are adopting, refused to do so for a gay couple even after a federal judge ruled that Arizona’s law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Montgomery contended that decision still did not provide the same rights of gays to adopt.
When that argument faltered, Montgomery pushed the Legislature to repeal entirely, for all couples, that requirement for free legal help. It was only a veto by Ducey that blocked the maneuver.
“It appears unlikely that he would be able to provide impartial justice to LGBT people and their families if he were appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court, let alone the appearance of impartiality,” attorneys for Lambda Legal which gets involved in issues of gay rights.
His views on gay rights also came into focus when he helped to kill a proposed rule for lawyers that would have made it an ethical violation for them to discriminate against clients based on their “gender identity.” So strong was his opposition that Montgomery even sent out a note saying that if the change is approved there will be a “strong effort” to eliminate the requirement that attorneys belong to the State Bar of Arizona.
That killed the plan.
“Mr. Montgomery has made clear over the course of many years that he is unwilling to treat LGBT people equally under the law,” the attorneys for Lambda Legal wrote.
But the view is different from Gary McCaleb, senior counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian public interest law firm, whose organization has often ended up on the other side of issues with Lambda Legal.
McCaleb, who also served on that task force about gender identity, defended Montgomery and the way he handled himself. He said Montgomery stated his opposition “in very measured, logical, and legally grounded terms.”
Analise Ortiz, campaign manager for ACLU Arizona, said Montgomery’s issues of bias go beyond sexual orientation.
That includes his 2014 decision to hire John Guandolo, a former FBI agent, to conduct training for law enforcement on the threat of Muslim terrorist groups. The invitation to the training said Guandolo, who left the FBI after an affair with a confidential source, said topics would include “threats posed to our local communities by Hamas, Hezbolla and Sharia Law.”
At the time, Imraan Siddiqi, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Arizona, called Guandolo an “Islamophobe,” saying he was “creating a false correlation between being a Muslim and being prone to violence.”
Montgomery said at the time that the training was “mischaracterized” and said he was “comfortable” with it. But Ortiz said it raises questions about impartiality and whether Montgomery is capable of considering the impact of his decisions on all people.
On the positive side of the ledger, Montgomery also has secured endorsements from Ernest Calderon, a former president of the State Bard of Arizona, David LeBahn, CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen and several current and former staffers at the Maricopa County Attorneys Office.
Montgomery declined to comment on what has been submitted to the commission.
At least part of whether Montgomery makes the short list sent to Ducey depends on exactly how short that list turns out to be.
The voter-approved constitutional provisions for selecting appellate judges requires the commission to send at least three names to the governor. In that case, no more than two can be from the same party. So if the commissioners want to nominate just one of the two Democrat contenders, or just the Libertarian, they can send only two Republican names to Ducey.
More non-Republicans on the list mean more potential Republican nominees, though there is no set requirement for how many of the nine to be interviewed Friday can be sent. Last time, when Montgomery did not make the cut, the commission sent just five names to Ducey, three Republicans and two Democrats, before the governor chose Republican James Beene.
This will be Ducey’s fifth pick for the court. Aside from replacing two retiring justices – now three – the Republican-controlled Legislature also expanded the court from five to seven, giving Ducey two more slots to fill.
The process to shape Arizona’s political landscape over the next decade kicked off July 13, as the application period opened for membership on the Independent Redistricting Commission.
Although the intent of the voter-approved IRC was to take politics out of drawing legislative and congressional districts, the reality has been a politically charged process as seen in the first two iterations of the IRC because so much is at stake.
Doug Cole, the COO of HighGround Public Affairs who in 2010 served on the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, the body that vets IRC applicants and nominates finalists, said Arizona could see one or both chambers at the Legislature flip from Republican to Democrat in 2020 and then flip back in 2022 because of how the maps are drawn.
The applications are due in before close of business August 20. From that point, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will vet applicants and narrow the list to 25 contenders – 10 Republican, 10 Democrat and five independents.
The IRC consists of five commissioners – the four legislative leaders each pick one from the list of finalists and then those four decide who the chair will be. However, the four current caucus leaders likely won’t be the four to pick IRC members, as it will be up to leadership in the 2021 Legislature.
Cole, who was Gov. Jan Brewer’s first appointment to the appellate commission, said Republicans “won” the first edition of IRC in 2000 and Democrats “won” in 2010. But Republicans like Kirk Adams, who was House speaker in the last round and became Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief of staff, was smart enough to realize the importance the IRC plays.
“Kirk saw the flaws the Republican Party made the last time and was politically astute enough to look forward to 2020,” Cole said, adding that it’s a slow process. “It’s like a supertanker fully loaded.”
Cole said Ducey called him in for a meeting weeks after becoming governor in 2015 to talk about the IRC process. Cole was no longer on the appellate commission at that point.
Arizona picked up a ninth congressional seat after the 2010 census and is expected to gain another next year following the 2020 census. When drawing districts, new or otherwise, the IRC is supposed to make them as competitive as possible.
Paul Bender, a constitutional law professor at ASU who was a finalist to become the IRC chair in 2010, said you want as many competitive districts as possible because it means your vote matters more than those in “safe” districts.
“The Constitution would like to have as many competitive districts as possible so the election means as much as possible,” he said.
When things don’t work out that way, Bender said, it leads to lawsuits.
This cycle, Republicans have dominated the process, with no small part due to Ducey’s controversial appointments to the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. The 16- member group has several vacancies and not one single Democrat among them to help vet IRC candidates. It’s packed with Republicans or Republican-leaning independents.
In the past few years, Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, has accused Ducey of stacking the commission with his Republican allies to ensure the redistricting process will result in Republican majorities at the state Capitol and in Arizona’s congressional delegation, even as Arizona increasingly turns purple in its political makeup.
“In order to retain that power, [Republicans] have to ensure that the people drawing the map for these legislative and congressional districts are going to be acting in their best interests rather than in the interest of drawing fair maps,” Quezada said in February.
He told Arizona Capitol Times that the state Democratic Party is actively recruiting people to apply for the IRC and that a Latino lawyers organization is also helping to likely recruit persons of color, something Quezada has noted is lacking on the appellate commission.
Matt Grodsky, the state Democratic Party spokesman, said the party is working hard to “educate citizens about the commission.”
Bender said he applied in 2010 because people asked him due to the importance of the commission itself but also to serve as the independent chair who becomes the swing vote on every decision.
State law puts limitations on how many members can represent the same political party and what qualifications are needed.
In April, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel shook part of the process up by issuing an emergency administrative order allowing people to weigh in on IRC candidates in secret, though he has since walked that back. All comments about applicants will be made public, but the identity of the those who comment can remain secret for “good cause.” Personal notes from commissioners also won’t be confidential, but members are permitted to discard them when no longer needed.
Other changes in the order make it so fewer votes are needed for a quorum – switching from a majority plus one person to a simple majority. So voting on business for the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments would only need six yes votes out of the 11 people on the commission. And if the group wanted to move into executive session, to remove the public from the usually-transparent process, it now needs a majority vote rather than two-thirds.
Cole said the key at this early stage in the process is to identify and recruit quality candidates to apply for the IRC and really the most important is who applies as the independent candidates because they get all the power, so to speak.
The appellate commission in its current makeup with no Democrats makes it more likely that whoever the appellate commission picks as the five finalists for independents will have stronger connection to the Republicans than Democrats. This scenario would solidify Republican control in the state on the legislative and congressional side.
Arizona currently has five Democratic members of Congress and four Republicans. With the presumptive tenth seat falling into Republican control (given no other district flips), that would put the state’s congressional makeup at an even split.
Bender said the idea of the IRC is to remove partisan politics from the equation, but under the current model it’s failing when you have four partisan politicians appointing candidates.
“What you really want is five people [on the IRC] who are not partisan, and who are trying to do what they can to reflect the character of the state in who gets elected to the Legislature,” he said.
The Independent Redistricting Commission on Thursday decided after hours of interviews and gridlock to wait a week before choosing their chair.
The two Democrats and two Republicans swore into their unpaid, high profile positions and immediately faced off to decide who would lead the deliberation and interview process of the five independent candidates hoping to become the eventual chair of the IRC.
The commission’s job is to draw the state legislative and congressional boundaries.
After a second round of voting, Pima County Republican David Mehl was unanimously selected to lead the meeting. Interviews then took place in 30-minute intervals for each candidate where they answered a variety of questions and explained why they should be the person who will act as a tie-breaking vote in this redistricting process that will be under severe scrutiny across Arizona politics for years to come.
Robert Wilson, a gun store owner in Coconino County; Thomas Loquvam, a lawyer and lobbyist at EPCOR USA in Maricopa County; Gregory Teesdale, a former executive at several tech startups in Pima County; Erika Neuberg, a politically-knowledgeable psychologist in Maricopa County; and Megan Carollo, a flower shop owner in Maricopa County interviewed in that order.
After the interviews, the four IRC members recessed before reconvening to say roughly 300 public comments were submitted throughout the day and they want to look over those comments before making an ultimate decision on a chair.
If the commission cannot decide on a candidate by Jan. 29, it will go to the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which skews Republican, to make the selection.
Arizona’s next decade of congressional and legislative lines are one step closer to becoming a reality, as Secretary of State Katie Hobbs called for a meeting of the new Independent Redistricting Commission to commence on Jan. 14.
The agenda will include swearing in the four newly-appointed commissioners who will then publicly interview five candidates who hope to become the next chairman of the IRC and act as a tie-breaking vote for every decision the group will likely face during the process.
David Mehl, a Pima County Republican; Derrick Watchman, an Apache County Democrat; Shereen Lerner a Maricopa County Democrat and Douglas York, a Maricopa County Republican make up the new redistricting commission after receiving appointments from the 2019-2020 legislative caucus leaders.
Robert Wilson, from Coconino County; Thomas Loquvam from Maricopa County; Gregory Teesdale from Pima County; Erika Schupak Neuberg, from Maricopa County and Megan Carollo, from Maricopa County make up the final list of independent candidates who will interview in that order on Thursday. The first interview will commence around noon.
Nicole Cullen, from Maricopa County, originally made the shortlist for the chair position, but dropped out for family reasons and was replaced by Carollo.
There were already legal battles over this interview list that went nowhere, but future legal battles could always be on the horizon.
Legislative Democrats sued the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, the body that narrows the pool of candidates to 25 (10 Republican, 10 Democrat, five independent) for the leaders to pick from, alleging two independent candidates weren’t qualified.
Democrats wanted Loquvam and Wilson axed from the list – Loquvam for being registered as a paid lobbyist, which is against the commission’s rules, and Wilson for hosting a rally for President Trump.
A judge ruled against the lawsuit because Loquvam is only registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission for commission-related business and not the Secretary of State, which is typically used for legislative purposes and therefore a potential conflict of interest. Wilson was not removed because he’s been consistently a non-party affiliated voter for far longer than the minimum of three years prior to the selection process and there’s nothing that says he cannot hold rallies for politicians.
This IRC cycle is widely expected to favor Republican-drawn districts as many prominent members of the party have been planning this process since Democrats “won” in 2011. Democrats have been viewed as several steps behind throughout the process over the past several years. Arizona will pick up a 10th congressional seat, which could at least even the playing field at five Republican members of Congress and five Democrats, but will more than likely flip Arizona’s delegation to a six-to-four Republican advantage.
Once the four new commissioners elect a chairman, that person will select their vice chair and the next steps in the process will shortly follow. Those steps will include selecting legal teams (both Democratic and Republican) as well as an executive director who will be paid, unlike the five members of the IRC.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is set with its partisan picks and all that’s left is choosing the independent chair.
Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson, picked Derrick Watchman, a Democrat from Apache County. Watchman is the first person from Apache County to ever be on the IRC, and the first member of the Navajo Nation.
Watchman was well-liked by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, and one of the top vote-getters after his interview last month. He now joins Pima County Republican David Mehl, a real estate developer; Maricopa County Republican Douglas York, a landscape CEO; and Maricopa County Democrat Shereen Lerner, an anthropology professor.
“We believe his experience as a leader in the business community gives him the consensus building skills that will make him successful in this very important role,” Bradley said in a press release.
Having someone from the Navajo Nation, as well as representing a county outside Maricopa and Pima counties, was important not just for the Democrats, but for representation in Arizona since members on Indian reservations have been historically overlooked on decision-making in the state.
“Indigenous perspectives and values have never been adequately represented,” Bradley said. “Every voter must have fair representation in our state and the ability to elect candidates that truly reflect and uphold their values.”
Mehl, York, Lerner and Watchman will now choose a nonpartisan chair, who will act as a tiebreaker for any deadlocked votes for the drawing of legislative and congressional districts next year. The five candidates they will select from are: Megan Carollo, a flower shop owner in Maricopa County; Thomas Loquvam, an attorney for EPCOR Utilities in Maricopa County; Erika Neuberg, a former psychologist in Maricopa County with political ties to both Republicans and Democrats; Gregory Teesdale, a businessman in Pima County; and, Robert Wilson, a gun store owner in Coconino County.
There is a pending lawsuit in court that House and Senate Democrats filed to have Loquvam and Wilson removed for being registered as a paid lobbyist and not a true independent, respectively.
A raft of changes is coming to a Republican-led effort to overhaul the Arizona commission responsible for redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative district boundaries.
Senate President Steve Yarbrough told the Arizona Capitol Times he hopes amendments he’s preparing for SCR 1034, which increases the membership of the Independent Redistricting Commission from five to eight, will bring Democrats on board and create truly bipartisan reform.
“The goal is to eliminate all of the opposition that makes sense, anyway,” the Chandler Republican said. “I don’t know what there’s left for them to oppose, frankly.”
Opponents criticized the resolution as a measure designed to fail, noting that Yarbrough’s vision of an eight-person commission would inevitably lead to gridlock. Yarbrough has said an even-numbered commission would eliminate the power that the lone independent has had in previous commissions and force the members to find a true bipartisan compromise
With the IRC unable to function, Democrats pointed to another provision in SCR 1034 that allows the Legislature, currently controlled by Republicans, to refer their own redistricting maps to voters. If approved, those maps would become the final congressional and legislative boundaries for a decade to come.
Yarbrough’s amendment will propose eliminating the legislative-referral provision and increasing the IRC to a nine-member commission, rather than eight.
Currently, commissioners are chosen from a pool of 25 candidates vetted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Republican and Democratic legislative leaders get to choose two commissioners each from the pool. Those four commissioners must then select a fifth candidate, typically an independent or anyone who’s neither a Republican or Democrat, to serve as chair of the IRC.
Yarbrough still wants to bypass the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments and allow Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to choose six IRC commissioners, three for each party. And each party would select an independent commissioner to serve as well.
His amendment would have the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments nominate five candidates to be the ninth commissioner, also an independent, who would also be the IRC chair.
The other eight commissioners would then select from among the five nominees, and if they couldn’t reach an agreement, one of the five would be chosen at random.
Yarbrough said the amendments respond to criticism from Democrats and other opponents, like the Arizona Advocacy Network, who viewed SCR 1034 as a measure designed to let the Republican-controlled Legislature back into the redistricting process. Voters stripped the Legislature of that responsibility in 2000, when they approved a proposition creating the IRC.
Yarbrough said his original intent was for the Legislature to be a backstop in case the IRC couldn’t find a compromise, but with nine members, that scenario would be far less likely.
“I’m serious about this being a bipartisan deal,” he said. “They fussed about it. They didn’t like it. I’m taking it out,” he said of the legislative referral provision.
With these amendments, “it certainly would be my hope that the media would like this proposal and ultimately editorially support it down the road, and that the voters would pass it,” Yarbrough added. “I’m not doing this just as an exercise. I actually am truly committed to getting this done and improving the commission to indeed make it more fair and more bipartisan.”
A lawsuit filed by top Democratic legislative leaders challenging nominations for the Independent Redistrict Commission has no merit and should be thrown out, attorneys for the panel that crafted the nominations said Wednesday.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Catlett said there’s no legal basis for the complaint by House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and David Bradley, her Senate counterpart, that two people on the list are not legally qualified to be considered for the lone “independent” slot on the five-member redistricting panel.
Catlett does not dispute that one of them, Coconino County Robert Wilson, hosted a campaign event for President Trump in the parking lot of his Flagstaff gun store.
He also said Wilson has occasionally hosted “`meet and greets” for Republican candidates at his business. And, as political independents are entitled to do, Catlett said Wilson did vote in the Republican primary.
But Catlett said the fact remains that Wilson has been a registered independent since 2005. He said that more than meeting the terms of the Proposition 106, the 2000 voter-approved constitutional amendment creating the commission that draws the lines for legislative and congressional districts, which requires someone to be independent for just three years.
Everything else, he told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janice Crawford is irrelevant.
“If those who drafted Proposition 106 wanted to include additional requirements to prove one’s unaffiliated status, they could have easily done so,” Catlett wrote. “The courts should not second guess that decision 20 years later.”
Catlett acknowledged that Thomas Loquvam, the other independent nominee whose status is being challenged, is registered as a lobbyist with the Arizona Corporation Commission because of his employment with utility EPCOR. And Proposition 106 says members of the redistricting commission cannot have served as a “registered paid lobbyist” in the past three years.
But Catlett contends the prohibition against lobbyists serving on the redistricting panel applies only to those who lobby the Arizona Legislature. In fact, he argues, it could never have been the intent to apply the ban to those who lobby the Corporation Commission
“The ACC’s registration scheme was not in existence when voters added the IRC process to the constitution,” he wrote, pointing out that the corporation commission didn’t create its lobbyist registration system until 2018.
Crawford has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to hear arguments.
What’s behind the legal fight is that the 2000 voter-approved system requires legislative leaders every 10 years — after each census — to choose members of the redistricting commission.
But they must select from those nominated by the separate Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, the group Catlett represents. That panel forwarded the names of 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and five political independents.
The majority and minority leaders of both houses each pick one. Then those four name a fifth from the list of political independents.
What makes all this critical is the redistricting panel has the power to determine the political direction of the state for the coming decade. That’s because its members can draw lines that give one party or the other an edge during elections based on political registration.
Crawford needs to make at least one decision immediately: whether to bring the selection process to a halt while she considers the qualifications of Wilson and Loquvam.
The Arizona Constitution gives the first pick to the speaker of the House. But once that selection is made, each successive choice — the House minority leader, the Senate president and the Senate minority leader — has to be made within seven days or that person forfeits the pick.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers started the clock running Oct. 22 with his selection of Tucson developer David Mehl. Unless Crawford stops the clock, Fernandez needs to make her choice this Thursday or get no role at all in the process.
But Catlett is telling Crawford that delaying the process while she decides whether Wilson or Loquvam are legally nominated “would require the court to unilaterally and unfairly alter the constitutional selection deadlines.”
The 60-day clock is ticking for Gov. Doug Ducey to choose his sixth Arizona Supreme Court justice from a list of seven applicants submitted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.
The new justice will fill the seat of previous Ducey appointee Andrew Gould, who retired from the bench earlier this year to throw his hat in the ring for attorney general.
Ducey’s shortlist has five women and two men on it – he has yet to appoint a woman to the state’s high court. No Democrats applied. The choices are:
Cynthia J. Bailey, a Republican Court of Appeals judge.
David J. Euchner, a Libertarian Pima County public defender.
Kathryn H. King, a Republican in private practice at BurnsBarton PLC.
Jennifer M. Perkins, a Republican Court of Appeals judge.
Adele G. Ponce, a Republican Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
Patricia A. Starr, an independent Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
David D. Weinzweig, an independent Court of Appeals judge.
Arizona Capitol Times will take a closer look at each of Ducey’s possible choices, starting with three this week and four the next.
Cynthia Bailey, currently a Court of Appeals judge, has worked in all three branches of government during her career – something she says has enhanced her work and is a constant reminder of the role of the judiciary.
“I’ve had an interesting career,” Bailey said during her interview. “It doesn’t make any sense when you look at my different jobs – they look kind of scattered. But I was lucky enough to be able to follow my legal curiosities and fulfill those with different jobs, and it never made more sense to me, the road I took, until I came to the Court of Appeals.”
Bailey said once she assumed her current role last year, she then saw her previous experience as building blocks to where she is now.
“At different stages, I’ve specialized in how laws are made, how they are enforced, and how they are interpreted by judicial officers,” Bailey wrote in her application.
She wrote that her four years as Arizona Senate rules attorney was particularly helpful because she had to maintain neutrality in her legal analyses of proposed bills and amendments while being lobbied by members of both parties.
Her 10 years on Maricopa County Superior Court also inform her current work.
“I literally rely on it every day,” she said. “I use something that I learned, knew, saw, read from my days on the Superior Court, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that other members of the court also find that experience helpful and ask me about it frequently when we’re dealing with difficult issues in the court of appeals.”
Despite her varied experiences in law, she wrote in her application that her legal North Star has always been a courtroom.
“The lure of deciding the most challenging cases in the Supreme Court is something that I look to as a challenge,” she said.
This isn’t David Euchner’s first try to get on the state Supreme Court – he and Jennifer Perkins both applied for the seat filled by Justice Bill Montgomery in 2019. Euchner made the shortlist then, too.
Since 2005, he has worked in the Pima County Defenders Office, focused mostly on criminal defense, appellate and post-conviction cases, though starting in 2018, he also started handled certain appeals from Juvenile Court. He has also represented new arrestees at initial appearances for more than nine years while training new lawyers on how to do so. Except for a brief stint in 2012 when he was a registered Republican, Euchner has been a Libertarian since moving to Arizona in 2001.
Euchner does four to six presentations a year for continuing education and files several amicus curiae briefs in federal and state appellate courts, generally on behalf of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
Beyond being active with Arizona Attorneys for Justice, Euchner has served on Arizona Justice Project’s Board of Directors and the State Bar’s Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. In 2017, he co-founded the Southern Arizona Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society and was elected its first president.
Over the years, Euchner has applied for two vacancies on Arizona Court of Appeals, Division Two, and two vacancies for a judge pro tempore spot on the Pima County Superior Court and other openings on that court.
He has also run for public office – once for U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 when he lived in Massachusetts and once for Pima County attorney in 2004.
Outside of his professional life, Euchner is an avid chess player and enjoys music – he and his wife met in the Rutgers University Marching Band in 1992. He has instilled the joys of both in his three children, in part through homeschooling them.
“I am very happy to see that our children have embraced music as we have,” Euchner wrote in his application for the state Supreme Court seat. “I had to put my interests aside while the children were young, but as they grow I can share my interests with them.”
Euchner started playing chess when he was 5 years old and is now a United States Chess Federation-qualified tournament director who helps run tournaments in the Tucson area. He said his greatest chess achievement was playing seven-time U.S women’s champion and grandmaster Irina Krush to a draw in 2015.
Kathryn Hackett King
Kathryn Hackett King’s legal career was inspired by her father who routinely told her, “Kate, go out and help somebody today.”
“Those words really stuck with me,” Hackett King said during her interview. “They have stayed with me true until today.”
Hackett King grew up visiting her dad’s law practice in Phoenix where he would introduce her to female lawyers. Hackett King said that her dad only had one woman in his class in law school, and she dropped out.
Now, Hackett King, a native Arizonan, is a partner at a woman-owned law firm, BurnsBurton. Her background in law brings another element of diversity, she said.
“The last few appointments to the Supreme Court have been lawyers from a predominantly – of a criminal background,” Hackett King said. “And so, what I bring is this new fresh perspective of somebody coming from a complex civil litigation background.”
Hackett King, like Bailey, has also served in all three branches of government. Before her current job in private practice, she was deputy general counsel to Gov. Doug Ducey from 2015 to 2017, advising him on the constitutionality of bills that came across his desk and the potential challenges under the state and U.S. constitutions.
Her work in private practice has focused on labor and employment law, representing private and public employers. In addition to representing clients in state and federal courts, she also represents clients in matters pending before state and federal administrative agencies.
“I’m on the ground; I’m advising businesses and individuals about how to conform their conduct with respect to these evolving laws on the pandemic that create just a multitude of new questions all the time,” she said.
Outside of her practice, Hackett King is also a regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, a position Ducey appointed her to right at the start of the pandemic. She said she immediately faced complicated, unprecedented decisions when it came to higher education navigating Covid.
“I think these combined experiences as a whole have well positioned me and give me a very unique perspective to bring to the Supreme Court at this time,” she said.
The most powerful, unpaid political figure in Arizona for the next decade will either be a teacher, a businessman, an attorney for a public utility, a gun store owner or a psychologist-turned-life coach.
After the first of two days of interviews for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments narrowed its list of 11 semi-finalists for the IRC chair down to the final five: Nicole Cullen, a Gilbert teacher; Thomas Loquvam, an EPCOR attorney who used to work for Pinnacle West; Erika Neuberg, a former psychologist who has contributed to several campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats; Gregory Teesdale, a businessman in the tech industry; and Robert Wilson, a gun store owner who held a rally for President Donald Trump in his parking lot in August.
After a thorough discussion about the independent candidates, the Commission immediately approved Cullen, Loquvam, Neuberg and Teesdale, but had to hold a runoff vote to break a tie for the fifth slot. That was between Wilson and Megan Carollo, a small business owner with an economics background in Scottsdale. Wilson won the run-off with nine votes to Carollo’s four. Neuberg received the most votes overall with 14.
Wilson seemingly received the advantage since he brought geographic diversity due to living in Coconino County. He and Teesdale, Pima County, are the only finalists outside of Maricopa County.
Wilson also received the most letters in opposition, something he appeared to take pride in during his roughly 10-minute interview via Zoom.
“I take a little pride in the fact that I set myself apart from my peers already by being the number one negative letter getter,” Wilson said about the 149 letters the Commission received.
He was the last candidate to move into the interview round when the commission met in September and was considered a “backup” of sorts due to one independent candidate, Mignonne Hollis, potentially being considered a paid lobbyist, which would be grounds for disqualification under the rules of the IRC.
Hollis was viewed by several members of the commission to be a top candidate given how much overwhelming support she received from letters and calls –– and has ties to both Republicans and Democrats, is a Black woman and lives in Cochise County. She claimed to not be a lobbyist, but had to register as one as part of her job.
Ultimately, the Attorney General’s Office determined her job to qualify as a paid lobbyist and she was disqualified from consideration before her allotted interview. Ken Strobeck, the Republican former executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, was also disqualified for the same reason.
One Democrat, Mumtaza Rahi-Loo, later got the axe for serving as a pro tem justice of the peace, which qualifies as a public office – also not allowed on the IRC. But today’s interviews were only for the independents. The 40 partisan candidates will interview on October 9.
Commissioners asked all candidates how they would deal with hostility or disagreement within the commission, what competitive districts and communities of interest meant for the IRC and how they would handle public scrutiny. Some candidates received a fourth question –– either something tailored to what the commissioners found in their due diligence report (a thorough vetting of each candidate) or why they felt they were qualified for the position.
Christopher Bavasi, an independent former mayor of Flagstaff, likely removed himself from consideration due to his answer to that fourth question.
“I’m not sure I’m any more qualified than any of your other candidates,” he said. Bavasi was one of the top vote getters moving him into the interview round last month with 12 votes out of 14, but after his interview only received two.
And Nick Dranias, a former Goldwater Institute lawyer, who received a lot of negative comments for a variety of reasons days leading up to the interviews and from Democratic lawmakers this morning also did not make the cut.
On Oct. 9, 19 Republicans and 19 Democrats will interview with the Commission, which will winnow both down to 10 a piece. Eventually each legislative leader will name a partisan pick to serve for the next decade, and those people will then choose from the group of five independents.
A former Phoenix Suns ball boy, a musician, an immigrant from Canada and a mother of school-aged children all have one thing in common – they’re finalists to be on the Arizona Supreme Court.
Gov. Doug Ducey has until mid-July to choose his sixth Arizona Supreme Court justice from a list of seven submitted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.
The new justice will fill the seat of previous Ducey appointee Andrew Gould, who retired from the bench earlier this year to run for attorney general.
Ducey’s shortlist has five women and two men on it – he has yet to appoint a woman to the state’s high court. No Democrats applied. The choices are:
Cynthia J. Bailey, a Republican Court of Appeals judge.
David J. Euchner, a Libertarian Pima County public defender.
Kathryn H. King, a Republican in private practice at BurnsBarton PLC.
Jennifer M. Perkins, a Republican Court of Appeals judge.
Adele G. Ponce, a Republican Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
Patricia A. Starr, an Independent Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
David D. Weinzweig, an Independent Court of Appeals judge.
Arizona Capitol Times took a closer look at three finalists last week– Bailey, Euchner and King –and now turns its attention to the other four.
Jennifer Perkins isn’t looking to check a box for her resume or put a cherry on top of her career on the way to retirement, she told the commission. She’s eager to sit on the high court, and she has time before mandatory age 70 retirement.
“I had a colleague say, ‘It’s like your fuse is lit,’” Perkins said. “My fuse is lit, I’m ready to serve, and I have a lot of years left to serve.”
While Perkins said she has enjoyed her time as a Court of Appeals judge – a position she has held since 2017 – she said the heavy docket can limit opportunity to dig as deeply as she would like into a particular issue. The state Supreme Court, she said, has more time to research a topic, craft opinions and give guidance that answers legal questions well.
“Those are all things that are a part of my job now but in such a smaller way just by virtue of the time that we are limited to, in terms of the significant number of cases that we have,” Perkins said.
Before sitting on the appellate court bench, Perkins was in the state Attorney General’s Office from 2015 to 2017 as assistant solicitor general, drafting, editing and managing attorney general opinions and serving as ethics counsel. There, she said she realized Arizona still has many legal questions that needed answering.
“We’re still a fairly young state in terms of the jurisprudence that’s out there,” Perkins said. “There are still holes in our law; there are still cases that come up with constitutional questions that we haven’t answered.”
If appointed, Perkins would be the second woman on the court. Vice Chief Justice Ann Scott Timmer, a Gov. Jan Brewer appointee, has been the lone woman on the bench since 2015. But Perkins said being a woman was a minor part of what she would bring to the state’s high court.
“I am a mother of school-aged children, and I think that’s an unusual perspective for a court of last resort,” Perkins said.
She added that she would bring a unique background in law – much of her career has focused on ethics work. She served as disciplinary counsel for the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct from 2009 to 2014.
“The Supreme Court of Arizona handles all professional responsibility cases at the end, all judicial ethics cases at the end of their life as a case,” she said. “That is a background that I think would really contribute a lot to the court.”
Managing a docket of more than 400 cases, Adele Ponce enjoys the fast-paced, boots-on-the-ground decision making of being a trial court judge. But her true passion, she said, is digging deeper.
“Something that I feel that I’ve been preparing for from the time that I was really young is to be in that, that higher level of court where you’re really looking at deciding those issues of statewide importance, really taking the time to look into an issue and analyze the law,” she told the commission during her interview.
Ponce has been a Maricopa County Superior Court judge since 2018. Before that, she was in the Attorney General’s Office as an assistant attorney general in the criminal appeals section from 2013 to 2018.
Her work in the Attorney General’s Office focused on reviewing the trial court record, researching and arguing why appellants’ convictions or sentences should be upheld. She also responded to petitions for the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the U.S. District Court for Arizona and helped other attorneys prepare for oral arguments in the state and federal appellate courts.
Ponce said that there are seven justices for a reason, and diversity, while not the qualifying factor, is important and that citizens want to see themselves reflected in the court.
She told the commission about when she was clerking for then-U.S. District Court Judge Mary Murguia in 2010. Ponce was pregnant with her third child. She said she remembered walking down the hall, looking at portraits of previous judges and not seeing even one mother.
“I remember being struck by that,” she said. “Of course, that was in the Sandra Day O’Connor Courthouse where we have a very nice statue of Sandra Day O’Connor that kind of contrasted the portraits.”
She also highlighted her experience as an immigrant – she came to the United States at 9 from Canada and spoke only French, picking up English at school while living in Des Moines, Iowa. She wrote in her application that she doesn’t take living in the United States for granted. She became a naturalized citizen in 1991.
“I felt, and still feel, profound gratitude for the opportunity America provides everyone fortunate enough to live here,” she wrote.
Patricia Starr said she believes she can make an immediate contribution to the state’s high court because of her background as both a trial and appellate attorney and judge.
“I have presided over trials, including medical malpractice, commercial, personal injury, and wrongful death matters, as well as all types of felony criminal matters,” she wrote in her application. “For three years, I handled lower court and administrative appeals, with issues as varied as a criminal defendant’s right to confrontation to the regulation of the insurance market in Arizona.”
Starr spent most of her career as a prosecutor in the Maricopa County Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices. She has been in the judiciary since 2011, when she became a commissioner in Maricopa County Superior Court. Gov. Jan Brewer appointed her to the bench in 2014, and she is now the presiding judge for the criminal department of Maricopa County Superior Court.
Starr said her administration experience as a presiding judge will come in handy, giving the example of the new obligations to determine whether an alternative business structure should be approved or whether a nonlawyer can be a partner in a law firm.
“I’ve had years of experience in administration in the middle of the pandemic that I feel really tested me and would make me a valuable addition to the court if I was lucky enough to be chosen,” she said.
For three years before she became a commissioner, she worked with the Arizona Death Penalty Judicial Assistance Project as a capital staff attorney. In that role, she helped trial judges across Arizona handle death penalty cases. She researched, drafted orders and jury instructions, sat in on hearings and trials, offered advice and doing trainings.
Starr said it was at that point she started considering a career in the judiciary.
“My career as a lawyer and judicial officer in Arizona has been rewarding and exciting, and allowed me to contribute to my community,” she wrote. “I am seeking this position to take on new challenges while continuing my career of public service.”
Outside of law, Starr studies piano, guitar, voice and music theory. She recently won first place in the adult contemporary and commercial music category at the auditions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Valley of the Sun Chapter. She also enjoys martial arts.
Born and raised in Arizona, David Weinzweig called the state his lens, backdrop and narrative and wrote in his application that sitting on the state’s high court would be the pinnacle of his career.
“I love my current job and would be thrilled to remain and retire on the Arizona Court of Appeals, but, in many ways, the Arizona Supreme Court represents my finish line,” he wrote.
Weinzweig has been on the Court of Appeals bench since 2018.
From 2017 to 2018, Weinzweig represented clients in constitutional litigation and appeals in private practice. Before that, he was senior litigation counsel in the state Attorney General’s Office.
“Most frequently, I defend state statutes against constitutional challenges in state and federal court,” Weinzweig wrote. “I defended constitutional challenges against state criminal laws and capital punishment methods, election laws, education laws, free speech laws, tax laws, abortion laws, government spending laws, and more.”
Weinzweig told the commission he would be a good choice because of that experience and because of his decade of private practice work at Lewis and Roca LLC from 2002 to 2012. He referred to a quote: “Judgment is the product of experience.”
“You’re only able to assess the consequences of something under the law when you’ve seen that case before or you’ve done that before – It’s kind of like Michael Jordan, the more he played, he loved the game,” Weinzweig said. “I have experience.”
Weinzweig, whose mother survived the Holocaust, spoke about diversity in terms of life experiences. His father was murdered when he was 8, and his adoptive father died in a car accident when Weinzweig was in law school.
“I bring life experiences that are diverse, life’s challenges,” he said, adding that those experiences “engrained a sense of humility” in him.
Outside of law, Weinzweig said he’s passionate about his family, enjoys judicial biographies and plays tennis. He wrote in his application that the true pinnacle of his career came early when he was hired as an unpaid ball boy for the Phoenix Suns before he could even drive a car.
“While unpaid, that position still represents the pinnacle of my professional life and my all-time favorite job — meeting, watching, and retrieving errant basketballs for the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Larry Nance, Walter Davis, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” he wrote.
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