Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 7, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Retiring Justice David Souter

  |   Video
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter is retiring this summer at the end of the Court’s current term. ASU law professor Paul Bender talks about Justice Souter’s impact on the nation’s high court and about President Obama’s opportunity to nominate someone to replace him.
Guests:
  • Paul Bender - ASU law professor


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Last week U.S. Supreme Court justice David Souter announced he'll retire at the end of the court's term this summer. Back in our state, 17 people have applied to fill a seat on the Arizona Supreme Court being vacated by retiring Ruth McGregor. Earlier I spoke with A.S.U. law professor Paul Bender about both of those stories. Paul Bender, thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Paul Bender:
Good to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let's start with David Souter. He decides to step down. Are you surprised?

Paul Bender:
No. Because I heard for years that he was not happy living in Washington. He's never been happy living in Washington. So it didn't surprise me, although I think it's sort of strange. It's a great job, and for somebody to voluntarily leave that job at the height of their powers, when they're doing it so well, is -- he really doesn't like Washington. He really likes New Hampshire.

Ted Simons:
What kind of legacy will he leave?

Paul Bender:
That's interesting. I have thought of him almost since the beginning of the time he's been on the court, and when I was actively arguing cases there every month, as the best judge on the court at oral argument. And probably the best judge on the court overall. Another argument he would always, always ask the core question. He would have his finger on the question you did not want to ask -- have asked if you were going to lose. And he would zero right in and he would ask it in a nonaggressive way, just in a straight way, and he really wanted -- some people ask questions because they want to say something or show off, or make a joke, even sometimes. He asked questions because he really was interested, and he wasn't trying to push you around or embarrass you. That's exactly the right kind of temperament for a judge. The ironic thing is that people who judge that way don't tend to leave legacies, because legacies get left by ground-breaking decisions. And he might perhaps write a groundbreaking decision, but he's not there for that. He's written some terrific opinions.

Ted Simons:
Talk about how he has changed if he did, I'm assuming he did a little bit idea logically in his years on the courts.

Paul Bender:
Not to my knowledge. I was asked to look at his opinions by one of these special interests, as they call them, when he was nominated, to see whether they wanted to oppose him. And they had his opinions on the New Hampshire Supreme Court. I don't know if he's written anything on the first circuit. He was there briefly. And I read a bunch of his medical-related opinions, because they were interested in abortions. And I said, do you not -- you do not want to oppose this man. This man is as straightforward as you're going to get, and he's going to listen to your arguments. You are not going to have a problem with him. And they didn't. I was -- I don't think he's probably changed. I think he's always been what he is, which is straight down the middle, no preconceived ideologies, he wants it to be right, he's got a great feel for history. He's temperament is very even. He's a lot like Obama in a way in his calmness, and his directness.

Ted Simons:
Yet there's apparently in reading up on him, a quirkiness, maybe close to an -- a few eccentricities, but it sounds as though he rides his bike a lot around D.C., it sounds like people look at him as being that New Englander guy.

Paul Bender:
He's a bit of a loner, he's not part of the Washington social scene, he lives in an apartment near the court, shops in a local grocery store. He's not part of the rest of the testimony scene. I don't know if that contributes to the -- to his ableness to the job, but he really -- he takes this very seriously as a lawyer, as a judge. That's what his job is to do. And I think he's done it really well.

Ted Simons:
He leaves. The president now has his first Supreme Court nomination. Is he going to go a particular direction? What are you seeing?

Paul Bender:
Well, he'll go in the same direction I think that he's gone in a lot of his other appointments. He'll look for somebody very competent, very well qualified. He's said he wants judges with empathy, which means an ability to understand things from another person's point of view. And I think he means that. And I think he should mean that. Because judges have to do that. You have to -- you must think if you're a judge how what you're deciding affects people that. Doesn't mean if it hurts people it's bad, but you've got to know what its effect is on people, because laws are about effect as well as everything else. He'll look for somebody who is very well qualified, and who has the same kind of approach as he does. And I think as Souter does. It's a legal problem, which is straight head-on; don't go in with preconceived ideologies.

Ted Simons:
Does that suggest more after legal scholar as opposed to a more political figure?

Paul Bender:
Maybe. But I don't know what exactly what you mean by political figure. Someone who has run for office?

Ted Simons:
A Hillary Clinton, someone along those lines?

Paul Bender:
I don't think that would be out of bounds for him to pick a political figure. And maybe with a political figure there's more chance of somebody having some preconceived notions about things. And he would look for somebody that would be on the less preconceived scale of that. I think the court really needs some diversity. Not only another woman, which it needs, and more minorities, and some more geographical diversity, but they're all federal appellate judges now. They've all been federal appellate judges. They're professional judges. And if you look back at the history of the court, you will see that some of the great figures on the court were not that. Earl Warren, never been a judge, maybe he was a local judge. He was a governor, a politician. Hugo Black was a senator; Felix Frankfurter, Douglas was a professor and administrator. Brandice was a private lawyer in private practice. You could go on and on. And I think the court needs people like that. There's a special perspective that judges tend to fall into when they look at things, and it's not always wrong. But it's not always the only way to look at things.

Ted Simons:
That being said, any names you can throw out that come to mind that would be the betting favorites?

Paul Bender:
You've seen names in the paper. He knows people in Chicago who are very, very good. There's a woman at the University -- she's now in the seventh circuit, Diane Wood, who is very well qualified. And a very good judge. There's a guy who had taught at Chicago, Sunstein. There are -- I think he'll look for a woman. There's a woman in the second circuit who is Puerto Rican, who is a good judge. I'm sure he's got at least five or 10 people are very well qualified to pick from.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, some local folks are thinking that perhaps a Janet Napolitano, if not now, but in the future, might be Supreme Court material. What do you think about that?

Paul Bender:
Well, yeah, that's certainly possible. People have gone from jobs like that to the Supreme Court, especially somebody like Janet, who is superbly qualified in terms of her experience. She's had elected office as governor, she was U.S. attorney here, she was attorney general here. So she's been in both the state and the federal system. She was with an excellent law firm here. A really good young lawyer there. So she is amply qualified, and she's now in a job -- I don't think you would think -- he would think too seriously about her, because he needs her where she is. And also she would probably draw more opposition than some of the other people. But there ought to be more people like that on the court. We haven't had people -- people with real life experience who have done things in the world who have done things in politics, who have run for elective office. I think that's an important ingredient to have on the court.

Ted Simons:
Here in Arizona, governor brewer has a vacancy now on the Arizona Supreme Court. Real quickly here, describe the process. It seems like there's a bunch of names, then it goes down, then she picks three?

Paul Bender:
Yes. We have a merit selection system. Excellent merit selection system, which has really produced an excellent judiciary, one of the best state judiciaries in the country. There's a merit selection committee composed of people selected by the governor, and people select the by the bar, and they're not selected for this particular thing, they're on the committee for a long term. And people apply, and they winnow those down, and they interview people. And they have to send at least three names to the governor, and no more than two can be from the same political party. So they're not going to be three Republicans, there has to be one non-Republican sent there, or one non-democrat. And the governor must pick from one of those three people. The governor may not say, give me more names. If the governor does not pick one of those three, the chief justice picks from those people.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. Now, the governor has said she's not all that crazy about the merit selection system. She'd kind of like what to do what the president is doing, nominate someone of her own choosing and let the Senate go ahead and figure out if they're worthy or not. You say that's not necessarily a good idea?

Paul Bender:
It's not a bad idea. But I think ours is a better idea.

Ted Simons:
Because?

Paul Bender:
Because it's a merit selection system. You look around at the Arizona judiciary, and you will see people who would not be judges in an elective system, young lawyers, who are really good, who decide they want to become judges can get picked as judges under a merit selective system and work their way up to the Supreme Court. That's almost impossible to do just on your merits in either an elected system or political system. The president is not going to pick somebody just because they're really good. They're going to pick somebody for political reasons. They might also be really good. We hope they are. But in this merit selection system, that has nothing to do with it. The governor may want to pick somebody for political reasons. But the committee doesn't have to send them people like that. The committee can send them the three best qualified people that they see. And they've done that generally. We have a terrific Supreme Court as a result.

Ted Simons:
As a hunch, who are you seeing? Again, front-runners?

Paul Bender:
I don't know any of these people well enough. There's a lot of judges there. Are 17 names, I think, and I think 12 of them are judges. That's no surprise. And so the odds are that one of them would get it, but that's not necessarily true. And of the judges, I think there are five superior court judges and seven courts of appeals. The most likely kind of person is a court of appeals judge, but that's not inevitable at all.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly, is the president up for a fight, a confirmation fight no matter who he chooses?

Paul Bender:
I don't think so. I hope not. He's going to choose somebody who is very well qualified. The democrats have enough votes to pass the person. I would think that the Republicans would have better things to do with their time than that.

Ted Simons:
All right. Paul thanks for joining us.

Paul Bender:
Nice to be here.

STEM Education

  |   Video
  • The director of Science Foundation Arizona’s STEM Education Center (STEMAz) and a representative of one of the center’s major corporate sponsors talk about the importance of preparing Arizona students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Science Foundation Arizona
Guests:
  • Darcy Renfro - Executive Director, Science Foundation Arizona
  • Tracy Bame - Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, one of the stem center's major sponsors


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Science foundation Arizona is a nonprofit organization created by business leaders to position Arizona as a leader in high-paying, science and engineering jobs. Part of that mission is to help Arizona do a better job preparing students for careers in science and math. Foundations stem Arizona center, or Stem AZ works tone Hance student learning in these subjects. Joining me is Darcy Renfro, executive director, and Tracy Bame, with Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, one of the stem center's major sponsors. Thank you for joining us.

Tracy Bame:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Let's get a definition. Stem AZ, what are your goals?

Darcy Renfro:
Stem-AZ, science technology engineering and math. And the center was created in October by signs foundation Arizona to connect and leverage resources and efforts across the state in math, science, education. Enhance our earning potential or student earning potential, and student achievement in math and science so we can have a stronger base of workers to support and diversify the economy of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Is there something special that you look for in terms -- science, engineering, math, technology, these kinds of things, they will what they are? How do you make them more attractive?

Darcy Renfro:
Well, you make them more attractive -- stem is -- it's about how to solve problems. How to provide -- solve problems in the real world. And stem B is about a way of thinking and a way of learning. And a way of applying -- you assume math and science is fundamental to that. But it's about problem solving and some of the -- creating solutions to some of the world's biggest problems. Energy shortages, banking and finance, all of that stuff you can find math and science. Stem is about science, technology, engineering, and math, but it's also about innovative ways of learning and thinking that gets students into -- more interest the in the world's challenges and how we're going to solve them.

Ted Simons:
As far as Freeport McMoran Copper and gold, why did the company decide to get involved in something like this?

Tracy Bame:
A couple of reasons. One is very close to our business; obviously we're trying to George Tenet build a pipeline of future workers for our own industry. A significant portion of our work force is made up of engineers. And so we have to have qualified employees -- qualified students graduating from programs that we can hire. And many it's interesting, when we talk to our business lead there's run our business currently, the challenge, one of the biggest challenges that keeps them awake at night is where are we going to find future employees? And we're in a bit of an economic recession now, but you can't sort of cut off the efforts to fill the pipeline. You've got to continue to invest. And we see stem -- the stem education center as a real capacity building effort for the state of Arizona. We support a range of different programs, but the challenge is you don't really know if those programs are being effective, there's no way to connect them together and really build a continuum that increases the quality of stem education. With see the center as being a vehicle for doing that.

Ted Simons:
The stem education center exists, but so do public schools. Are the schools not doing as well as they should?

Darcy Renfro:
There are a lot of great things happening in our schools, public schools and charter schools. The problem is, they're happening in pockets, and their individual efforts are affecting small groups of students and families and communities. So what we're trying to do is tie together those efforts and really build that capacity. So greater numbers and really build sort of a critical mass of really highly educated stem literate students across Arizona that can fill those jobs and help create more jobs that are going to be high-paying and high quality and can support companies like free port.

Ted Simons:
As far as industry is concerned, what are the greatest needs? What are you looking for as far as results from this kind of association?

Tracy Bame:
Well, I think we've just got to increase the quality of education. When people think about stem education, perhaps they associate it with higher learning, and the degreed professionals, but it's really across the board. We hire a large number of degree professionals with experience and engineering, but you have to think about people in the trade industries. And there's -- at the K-12 level, we've got to increase that quality. Darcy was talking about the concepts of critical thinking that are associated with stem disciplines and learning. We have to increase that quality because it's costing business millions of dollars in training, and retraining, when they graduate from high school and we hire them into trade positions or professional-level positions that you have -- having to do as a business that extra step that really public education and higher education should be doing.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like this particular country -- company wants to get involved. How difficult or is it a challenge to get other companies involved in something like this?

Darcy Renfro:
I think a lot of companies want to be involved. A lot of companies, whether you're Intel, or Freeport, depending, it could be in the high-tech sector or not, bank of America is another one of our supporters. Finance secretary recognized the fundamental importance of a strong math-science education. Companies really are eager to get involved, and it's about channeling that. It's a way that does create that critical mass. You do find a lot of companies doing individual things with individual districts or individual communities, and that's why support from an organization like free port has been able us to branch out statewide and start to build partnerships with other companies that can work at a statewide level and not just a community or school by school level. But really take this issue on as a statewide priority.

Ted Simons:
I was going to say, it sounds like something like an umbrella effort would really work. That's in proper

Darcy Renfro:
That's what stem AZ is. We enjoy a board of directors; we have an advisory council made up of individuals like Tracy and folks from the philanthropic center, college of education, provost at A.S.U, a whole group of folks interested and see the value. So we're bringing all of that knowledge together to create the critical mass and really make stem education a priority for Arizona.

Ted Simons:
For a mining company looking at engineers, high-tech this, sort of thing, some folks are probably thinking, you dig a hole in the ground, you take some stuff out, put the dirt back in the ground, move on. Why does mining in particular find this kind of a need?

Tracy Bame:
Mining has gotten more high-tech. So for the folks who are still associating it with a pick and axe, those days are long gone. And the mining industry has not only become very technically savvy and technically focused, that's -- it makes our business more efficient to look at things like that. But we're also look at reducing our environmental footprint. And that takes a high level of technological talent in the organization to figure out what are better ways of doing what we do. There's been a lot of strides made. Stem education is just as critical across the board for us in every job that we have. Because mining has become so high-tech, because we understand that we have a responsibility to do it in a responsible way, and help it support the sustainability of our communities, our country, and the world, really.

Ted Simons:
I understand there was an award now given out, innovation award.

Darcy Renfro:
Today we had our inaugural innovation heroes award. Contributions from the private and philanthropic sector, Intel and others funded the first few awards. We are recognizing teachers and students who are doing great things in math, science achievement in the state. Today we were at Peoria school district, liberty high school, and recognized a career tech education teacher who create add program for all high school students in the Peoria school district. So that's going to give those students a way of getting really excited about math and science. And they're doing this for engineering. Things like problems like, does a curveball curve or just look like a curve? That's what gets students excited. They're using math and science, and in a way that's interesting. We want to recognize people like Dr. Torbert at Peoria school district, but also other teachers. We'll be in Tucson next week and doing that throughout the year. And we are accepting nominations ongoing. You can find them at SFAZ.org.

Ted Simons:
Very good. Good stuff here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Darcy Renfro:
Thank you.

Tracy Bame:
Thank you.

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