Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 25, 2007


Host: Michael Grant

DeConcini Book


  • senator Dennis DeConcini and co-author Jack August will discuss their new book on DeConcini's time in the Senate.
Guests:
  • Dennis DeConcini - Former U.S. Senator
  • Jack August - Arizona Historical Foundation
  • Ruth McGregor - Chief Justice, Arizona State Supreme Court


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," former Senator Dennis Deconcini has a new book out. He writes about his sometimes contentious relationship with Senator John McCain. Hear from Deconcini and the book's co-author. It was the biggest story we ever covered on "Horizon" -- the Evan Meacham saga. We'll give you a recap of our coverage. And what's the state of Arizona's courts? Arizona's Supreme Court chief justice has the answer. That's coming up on horizon.

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the contributions of the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Former U.S. Senator Dennis Deconcini took some time to sign copies of his new book at Arizona State University recently. The book is called "Senator Dennis Deconcini: From the Center of the Aisle." The book details his early life, as well as his time in the United States Senate. Here now to tell us about the book is Senator Deconcini and the co-author of the book, Jack August Jr. Gentlemen, Senator, good to see you.

Dennis Deconcini:
Good to see you. Congratulations on your soon-to-be retirement, huh?

Michael Grant:
On my departure?

Dennis Deconcini:
Like I always said good to get out before they vote you out. You've done a great job here for many years, including numerous debates that I've sat here where you handled them most professionally.

Michael Grant:
I appreciate that. Jack, is it a linear tale? Chronological?

Jack August Jr.:
For the most part. I think the first chapter, which was Senator Deconcini's idea, we start with his first days in office, and what a big impact that was, and how he won that somewhat surprising and remarkable election in 1976 over Sam Steiger. And then we go back to his childhood in the second chapter. So for the most part it's lineal, chronological, but that first chapter's a grabber. I'm real happy with it.

Michael Grant:
Senator, you and I have a lot of elections under our belt. Me watching them and you conducting them. I will tell you, the '76 race, that republican primary between Sam Steiger and John Conlin and in the battle between you and Steiger, that stands out as one of the top two or three here in the past 40-years.

Dennis Deconcini:
I just got lucky.

[Laughter]

Dennis Deconcini:
Now Sam, you know --

Michael Grant:
Kind of staggered out.

Dennis Deconcini:
He did. He turned out to be his own worst enemy, god bless him. And I've dealt with him before and intervened for him in a legal matter because I thought the man was a decent guy. Notwithstanding, we had a very, very strong campaign. Some maybe bitter at the time. But it was a spirited little campaign. And it shows that somebody behind in the money -- I remember he had over 2 million, I had 650,000, you can pull it off.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, that's right. John McCain shows up in 1987. I understand that book goes into -- well, I'll characterize it this way. You guys were not exactly drinking buddies? Do I understand that?

Dennis Deconcini:
I think that's fair to say. There was a real effort on my wife and myself to do that when senator McCain was elected to the House of Representatives. He called me personally and asked me if my office would help set up constituent services within his office, which we did. I was glad to do that. When he moved to Washington and I had him to dinner at the house, it just didn't seem to tick, I guess. And when he came to the Senate it didn't seem to get any better from my perspective, at least. But I respect him. He's our senior senator.

Michael Grant:
Understood. I would think that for both of you those would be maybe particularly difficult episodes and incidents to put to paper?

Jack August:
Yes. It was a very I would say emotional chapter. And at the same time, we had to use a lot of rigor in terms of substantiating what was said. We did a lot of research together and fact checking, double-fact checking and having attorneys making sure every word was okay and every footnote at distribution was correct. So it was a tough section. But I think it's a very valid section.

Michael Grant:
An interesting point. You were there for 18 years.

Dennis Deconcini:
I was. And when you serve with somebody you get to know them pretty well. I served ten years with Barry Goldwater. And we had a very good relationship. We weren't drinking buddies, either, but we had a good, good relationship. Unfortunately with Senator McCain that wasn't the case. And although if you read the chapter 10 or 11, the one right after it about the federalism on the Indian nations, you'll see -- you'll hardly believe that I had something to do with writing the chapter before that. Because it's quite critical of senator McCain, the first one, then the following one is quite complimentary because we did some good work together.

Michael Grant:
What was the source of the --

Dennis Deconcini:
I don't know. I don't know. I wanted to make friends, not enemies. And apparently that didn't work.

Michael Grant:
Well, and the Arizona delegation, as you well know, had a reputation for hanging together as opposed to hanging separately.

Dennis Deconcini:
Michael, when I first went there, it was terrific. I mean, you had Barry Goldwater. And later in terms he didn't come to the breakfasts of the meetings we had. But he always sent somebody. And you had John roads and you had Eldon Rudd and Bob Stump. Then Jon Kyl and John McCain. And it kind of fell apart I have to say.

Michael Grant:
Any particular piece of this run that you found most fascinating, Jack?

Jack August:
Well, I found, from the story's perspective, that here's a very genteel, intelligent, elegant guy who's our senator. But I found out he's very competitive. And I don't think he can get into the arena, for example, and be a Tucson Democrat. And with an election in the state of Arizona like it was conceived at that point in history. That's one thing. Competition was a theme. Loyalty was another theme that really struck me and that the Senator was loyal to his staff, and the staff I interviewed was extremely loyal. It was reciprocal. Thirdly I call it the Steve-Nash factor. It seems as though everyone, Steve Nash makes all the players around him better. To a person, even the other night someone said, you know, it was a heart-felt statement from someone I didn't expect, he said, "Working around Dennis Deconcini made me a better person." There was unanimity around that. It wasn't meant to be that kind of event. But those three factors really stick out as I reflect on this work.

Dennis Deconcini:
Jack did a great job interviewing a lot of these staffers that someone else had to do.

Michael Grant:
Stopping the 15 game win streak.

Dennis Deconcini:
Right.

Michael Grant:
You know three or four years ago I was telling you I had the pleasure of finally going through the Panama Canal. And I thought about you a lot.

Dennis Deconcini:
Yeah. There's a chapter in there about that. And that was my first really initiation into the Washington scene.

Michael Grant:
And you were front and center real early and real quickly. I mean you became known as the real swing voter.

Dennis Deconcini:
Well, came in swinging. And the reason that I changed my vote on it when I changed my position. Rather, I had campaigned against giving away or transferring the treaty. I went back to Washington and was committed to that. And I just educated myself. And then at the time I realized that the Carter administration was making misrepresentations to the Congress and to the United States to use military force unilaterally. After going down there and talking to dictator, Trujillo, it was very clear he didn't think we had that right. I offered an amendment. When they first turned me down I thought, that's great. I can vote the way I said I would. When they didn't have the votes, they needed me and brought three or four other senators along and it passed. It was the right thing to do.

Michael Grant:
I was going to ask you. Any doubt?

Dennis Deconcini:
No. Particularly in retrospect. At the time there was doubt. And would you without the intervention clause up there, it's quite unique. The first George Bush used it when he invaded Panama and took out Noriega; he cited the Deconcini amendment that had to be adopted in Panama. Some people disagree. They say we should own it. It's ours; we did it, what have you. In reality, to be a superpower today you have to have some -- you have to have some humility. And that's hard when you're the big boy on the block all the time. You have to have some humility. I hope we get back to that.

Michael Grant:
You're getting some vigorous nods of your head over there, Jack.

Jack August:
Yes. I really liked working with the senator on that chapter. It's, I think, a very courageously stated chapter. And again this is Dennis Deconcini's voice in this book. And it was a complicated issue. I think we stated clearly and I think forcefully what happened and how Senator Deconcini came to the conclusion to vote as he did and to craft the Deconcini Reservation. It was actually a complicated piece of legislation.

Michael Grant:
Well, back here, the firm feeling among political pundits was that you were a dead man walking. And it shows you what we know --

Dennis Deconcini:
Well I was lucky.

Michael Grant:
Senator Deconcini.

Dennis Deconcini:
I pray a lot, too.

Michael Grant:
It's good to see you.

Dennis Deconcini:
Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Best of luck with the book. Jack August, thanks for being here as well.

Michael Grant:
Senator Deconcini was political contemporary of one of the most controversial Arizona politicians of all time, former Governor Evan Meacham. No other political figure has had as much impact on Arizona's reputation in the past 20 years as Meacham. A perennial candidate and anti-establishment conservative, Evan Meacham lasted 15 months as governor before he was impeached.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. It's been exactly two months since Evan Meacham took the oath of offers as Arizona's first Republican governor in 12 years. By and large it has been a fairly tumultuous time. His budget proposal for the next fiscal year has been largely ignored by lawmakers and reaction to many of his appointments has been something less than enthusiastic.

Reporter:
Yesterday the process of calling a recall election against Governor Meacham entered a new phase. Over 388,000 signatures were submitted to the secretary of state's office as hundreds of recall supporters outside the capitol building chanted for the governor's removal.

Michael Grant:
I'm Michael Grant. Another chapter in Arizona history was written today as the state's Senate opened its impeachment trial of Governor Meacham. Governor Meacham has been convicted on impeachment charges. He becomes the eighth governor in the United States history to be forced out of office through the impeachment process. Late this afternoon senators decided to take a vote. The first one came within two votes of acquitting the governor on Article I, the obstruction of justice charge. The second vote was more lopsided, 24-6 against the governor where he was found to be guilty of misusing his protocol fund. Finally senators voted not to disbar from Meacham from holding any other public office in the state Arizona. Keven speaking of voting, any doubt whatsoever that this was the number one story in the past 25-years?

Keven Willey:
Absolutely not. I think the unanimity of -- around this table is proof of that.

Michael Grant:
You know, art, and actually it was an 18-month run. It was Evan Meacham bumping off the state's most powerful man, Burton Barr, in September. And then it ran for 18 months. It was just absolutely incredible.

Art Hamilton:
It was bizarre in the extreme. Everything that you would ever want to know and laugh about in Arizona politics happened in those 18 months. People kept saying, "hey, it can't get any worse." And at some point we figured out that only reason the governor opened his mouth was to change his socks. I mean, every time -- it was an event every time he spoke. We were actually selling tickets to people to go listen to the press conferences. They were a thing of absolute beauty.

Jana Bommersbach:
Do you remember how it consumed our lives? Everybody covering this, you ate, slept and drank -- you went to try to catch up with everybody else. Your whole life was consumed. You couldn't do the laundry, home improvements, anything. You were consumed with this thing.

Michael Grant:
I remember most about it that I always listen to the radio when I'm headed from the office over to the station. Then I was really listening to the radio, because there probably had been something concerning Evan Meacham in the last three hours we were going to have on the show and I was trying to camp up.

Mark Flatten:
If you compare Meacham to Watergate, Watergate was made by diligent, investigative reporting. Meacham -- the Meacham story was made by micro-cassette recorders. You would literally get up, look at your schedule. Oh, Evan is giving a speech to the rotary club. You'd go and didn't have to ask him a question. You just turned on your tape recorder.

Keven Willey:
There was a real lesson of journalism here, in that many people who had covered Evan Meacham's five or six campaigns for office knew quite well what kind of a wing nut he was. But because those stories had been written and some reporters had written them two or three dozen times, I think that going into the '86 campaign he was subjected to far less scrutiny than he should have been. Because people were, we've already written that. We've already read that. What we for got was Arizona has a transient population. Just because we knew of his previous campaign statements, most of the state did not. I think in hindsight, even for those of us who covered the campaign -- in October of '86 I remember doing a very in depth Meacham story I later was very proud of, I don't think we did enough of that.

Jana Bommersbach:
I think what's interesting is that Meacham was a real oddity when he finally came on the scene, took power and was elected. This was a very extreme right wing guy, really weird ideas. Term of endearment to the black community and tin foil on your head because there were radio waves.

Keven Willey:
Socialist.

Jana Bommersbach:
Right, all this bizarre stuff. What strikes me now 25-years later is that that's kind of the normal. We look at all the other dip sticks. So much of Meacham's stuff is now there in the literature every day.

Mark Flatten:
If you look at what Meacham did legislatively as the governor, it wasn't that nutty. When you talk to somebody like Jim Skully who is a very conservative guy, he said, the things he was doing in the legislature, in bills was fine. But it was his mouth that kept getting him into trouble. I still remember a press conference during the impeachment. Meacham got up -- I think it was a press conference -- and just was outraged. He said, this impeachment is nothing more than a political trial. And we all just kind of looked at each other and went, yeah. And that really was Meacham's downfall was politics.

Michael Grant:
What was the big message from this thing? I mean, there's a lot of doubt as to whether or not Meacham should have been impeached or we should have let the other processes play out.

Art Hamilton:
I said it before and I'll say it again, if I had it to do over again I would let the recall go forward. He was impeached, convicted, removed. He managed to get acquitted at his trial. For as long as he had been on the planet, even yet, he remained that but for the political trial he would have served his time out as governor. That's not true. But the fact of the matter is he believes even now he was railroaded. I do believe if I had it to do over again I'd let him swing in the breeze.

Jana Bommersbach:
Barry Goldwater probably had the best line. He said, we've had some damn good governors and mediocre ones. But it took us a long time to have a really bad one. Speaking about Evan Meacham.

Michael Grant:
The chief justice of Arizona's Supreme Court recently gave a "state of the judiciary" address. In that address, chief justice Ruth McGregor revealed that 97 percent of those who use Arizona courts rated judges as satisfactory or higher. Also, 94 percent said they were treated with courtesy and respect by court personnel. Here to tell us more about the state of the judiciary in Arizona is Justice McGregor. Justice, good to see you again.

Ruth McGregor:
Thank you. And let me add my thanks to you for your last 25 years, Michael. It doesn't seem possible it's been that long. You've done a great service to Arizona.

Michael Grant:
Well, you know, I think we met right around the time that Justice O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court, about 25 years ago.

Ruth McGregor:
Just about that time.

Michael Grant:
You know, last year at this time when you were here we were talking about the plan for the court to use the good to great concept. PBS recently ran a documentary about that. Did we go from good to great in the past year?

Ruth McGregor:
Well, we haven't gotten there yet but we certainly have made progress. Arizona is so fortunate to have really talented judges and clerks of the court and administrative staff and probation officers. And everybody has really responded so well to this challenge. So we've made great strides in a lot of areas of our court system. The problem, I guess, with trying to get to great is that it's a moving target. The better you get the more you see you can do. So we'll never really entirely finish this journey. But we're moving along the road.

Michael Grant:
You know, Arizonans, I don't think, really realize and of course not a lot of people know that I'm an attorney. But the Arizona court system is really very well-regarded throughout the country. It's a little bit of a local secret, I think.

Ruth McGregor:
It is. I don't know why we don't know this so well in Arizona, but across the country Arizona's courts are really looked to as being innovative. There's very seldom any question about the integrity of our courts.

Michael Grant:
Efficient.

Ruth McGregor:
Yeah. We're efficient. And one of the things that's really important is that although we've been recognized for all of those things, we continue to look for ways to improve and to make them better. And that's what I think you have to do in order to keep a court system that is well-regarded and really responds to the needs of the public.

Michael Grant:
Which leads logically to one of the first points you talked about in the state of the judiciary and that was swift, fair justice.

Ruth McGregor:
Right.

Michael Grant:
What's the plan there?

Ruth McGregor:
Well, we have a lot of plans. Of course, what we're trying to do is assure that everybody has access to the courts. And you know, the courts are affected just like all other parts of Arizona by the growth of this state. We have more cases, we have to have more judges, we have more people who represent themselves because they can't afford to have a lawyer represent them. And all of these things are challenges as to how we continue to process those cases in a way that assures that people are treated fairly. It also means that they move through the system. Because that benefits both the victims and the defendants in criminal cases, and both parties in civil cases. In family court, it's important the decisions get made swift in terms of child support and custody. So in all of these areas we have to constantly look to use new technology, to adopt new rules in the court, to try to find ways that we can be ever more efficient.

Michael Grant:
I was just going to mention the technology point. Is it being deployed, all of the new whiz-bang stuff, most of which baffles me? But is it being deployed effectively in the court system?

Ruth McGregor:
Yes. That is part of the court system that has just changed dramatically over the last 15-years. About 15 years ago, the legislature dedicated some funding for technology in the court system to use statewide. Before that time we had no technology in the court. And now, everything is -- some things are centralized. Some things are still local. But we use technology throughout the court system. We just finished, in fact, last month rolling out a new program for our adult probation so that everything is now computerized and our probation officers all across the state have access to information about probationers who are in other counties as well as exactly what's happening to those where they have oversight. We've done a lot of things, Mike, we have a data warehouse where we compile information from courts all across the state.

Michael Grant:
Moving to e-filings from paper filing.

Ruth McGregor:
That's right. And this is something just within the last few years where we're allowing people now to file documents -- well, they don't really file documents. They file electronic documents. Used to be they'd be produced electronically in the lawyer's office then we'd convert them into paper and they'd come back into court and we'd scan them and convert them back to an electronic method. So by allowing direct electronic filing we save a lot of expense, steps for the parties and expense for the courts as far as having to store all those documents.

Michael Grant:
Another point that you talked about was protecting children, families and communities? How so?

Ruth McGregor:
Right. Well, we do that in a number of ways. One of the things that's really important is the way that we treat victims in our courts. And we've done a number of things. Last year I set up a standing committee on victims in the courts that reports directly to the judicial council to make sure our judges and staff are treating victims appropriately and are assuring that rights that our state constitution gives them are followed. We've also made arrangements where victims can sign up for notification of what happens in their cases in Maricopa County. Are the superior courts aren't ready for that but we'll to that as soon as technology allows so they know immediately when a judge enters an order in that case if they have access to e-mail. We've adopted a new family court rule that really moves cases again better through the courts, gets earlier decisions on important marts that otherwise would fester and lead to further disputes. So we look to a lot of different areas that we really protect families and children within our court system.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. But I learned recently that the federal system has patterned somewhat a similar system off of Arizona's victims' rights package.

Ruth McGregor:
Yes. That's something that Arizona was one of the first states to adopt victims' rights, both through court rule and later by constitution and statute. And we'll be further ahead by the time they get where we are, the others.

Michael Grant:
Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, thanks for joining us and informing us about the state of the judiciary.

Ruth McGregor:
Thank you, Mike.

Larry Lemmons:
Should Scottsdale's photo radar on the Loop 101 be expanded throughout the state? Governor Napolitano likes the idea. Some in the legislature don't. And a Cronkite-eight poll looks at what voters think of senator John McCain's run for the White House. The Journalist's Roundtable Friday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

Michael Grant:
We'll also cover another issue we polled on this week, and that is what Arizonans think ought to be priorities for the legislature this legislative session. All that, probably even more tomorrow on Friday's edition of "Horizon." Thank you very much for joining us on this Thursday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

HORIZON 25th Anniversary


  • Find out what was the most important HORIZON story in the last 25 years.
Guests:
  • Dennis DeConcini - Former U.S. Senator
  • Jack August - Arizona Historical Foundation
  • Ruth McGregor - Chief Justice, Arizona State Supreme Court


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," former Senator Dennis Deconcini has a new book out. He writes about his sometimes contentious relationship with Senator John McCain. Hear from Deconcini and the book's co-author. It was the biggest story we ever covered on "Horizon" -- the Evan Meacham saga. We'll give you a recap of our coverage. And what's the state of Arizona's courts? Arizona's Supreme Court chief justice has the answer. That's coming up on horizon.

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the contributions of the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Former U.S. Senator Dennis Deconcini took some time to sign copies of his new book at Arizona State University recently. The book is called "Senator Dennis Deconcini: From the Center of the Aisle." The book details his early life, as well as his time in the United States Senate. Here now to tell us about the book is Senator Deconcini and the co-author of the book, Jack August Jr. Gentlemen, Senator, good to see you.

Dennis Deconcini:
Good to see you. Congratulations on your soon-to-be retirement, huh?

Michael Grant:
On my departure?

Dennis Deconcini:
Like I always said good to get out before they vote you out. You've done a great job here for many years, including numerous debates that I've sat here where you handled them most professionally.

Michael Grant:
I appreciate that. Jack, is it a linear tale? Chronological?

Jack August Jr.:
For the most part. I think the first chapter, which was Senator Deconcini's idea, we start with his first days in office, and what a big impact that was, and how he won that somewhat surprising and remarkable election in 1976 over Sam Steiger. And then we go back to his childhood in the second chapter. So for the most part it's lineal, chronological, but that first chapter's a grabber. I'm real happy with it.

Michael Grant:
Senator, you and I have a lot of elections under our belt. Me watching them and you conducting them. I will tell you, the '76 race, that republican primary between Sam Steiger and John Conlin and in the battle between you and Steiger, that stands out as one of the top two or three here in the past 40-years.

Dennis Deconcini:
I just got lucky.

[Laughter]

Dennis Deconcini:
Now Sam, you know --

Michael Grant:
Kind of staggered out.

Dennis Deconcini:
He did. He turned out to be his own worst enemy, god bless him. And I've dealt with him before and intervened for him in a legal matter because I thought the man was a decent guy. Notwithstanding, we had a very, very strong campaign. Some maybe bitter at the time. But it was a spirited little campaign. And it shows that somebody behind in the money -- I remember he had over 2 million, I had 650,000, you can pull it off.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, that's right. John McCain shows up in 1987. I understand that book goes into -- well, I'll characterize it this way. You guys were not exactly drinking buddies? Do I understand that?

Dennis Deconcini:
I think that's fair to say. There was a real effort on my wife and myself to do that when senator McCain was elected to the House of Representatives. He called me personally and asked me if my office would help set up constituent services within his office, which we did. I was glad to do that. When he moved to Washington and I had him to dinner at the house, it just didn't seem to tick, I guess. And when he came to the Senate it didn't seem to get any better from my perspective, at least. But I respect him. He's our senior senator.

Michael Grant:
Understood. I would think that for both of you those would be maybe particularly difficult episodes and incidents to put to paper?

Jack August:
Yes. It was a very I would say emotional chapter. And at the same time, we had to use a lot of rigor in terms of substantiating what was said. We did a lot of research together and fact checking, double-fact checking and having attorneys making sure every word was okay and every footnote at distribution was correct. So it was a tough section. But I think it's a very valid section.

Michael Grant:
An interesting point. You were there for 18 years.

Dennis Deconcini:
I was. And when you serve with somebody you get to know them pretty well. I served ten years with Barry Goldwater. And we had a very good relationship. We weren't drinking buddies, either, but we had a good, good relationship. Unfortunately with Senator McCain that wasn't the case. And although if you read the chapter 10 or 11, the one right after it about the federalism on the Indian nations, you'll see -- you'll hardly believe that I had something to do with writing the chapter before that. Because it's quite critical of senator McCain, the first one, then the following one is quite complimentary because we did some good work together.

Michael Grant:
What was the source of the --

Dennis Deconcini:
I don't know. I don't know. I wanted to make friends, not enemies. And apparently that didn't work.

Michael Grant:
Well, and the Arizona delegation, as you well know, had a reputation for hanging together as opposed to hanging separately.

Dennis Deconcini:
Michael, when I first went there, it was terrific. I mean, you had Barry Goldwater. And later in terms he didn't come to the breakfasts of the meetings we had. But he always sent somebody. And you had John roads and you had Eldon Rudd and Bob Stump. Then Jon Kyl and John McCain. And it kind of fell apart I have to say.

Michael Grant:
Any particular piece of this run that you found most fascinating, Jack?

Jack August:
Well, I found, from the story's perspective, that here's a very genteel, intelligent, elegant guy who's our senator. But I found out he's very competitive. And I don't think he can get into the arena, for example, and be a Tucson Democrat. And with an election in the state of Arizona like it was conceived at that point in history. That's one thing. Competition was a theme. Loyalty was another theme that really struck me and that the Senator was loyal to his staff, and the staff I interviewed was extremely loyal. It was reciprocal. Thirdly I call it the Steve-Nash factor. It seems as though everyone, Steve Nash makes all the players around him better. To a person, even the other night someone said, you know, it was a heart-felt statement from someone I didn't expect, he said, "Working around Dennis Deconcini made me a better person." There was unanimity around that. It wasn't meant to be that kind of event. But those three factors really stick out as I reflect on this work.

Dennis Deconcini:
Jack did a great job interviewing a lot of these staffers that someone else had to do.

Michael Grant:
Stopping the 15 game win streak.

Dennis Deconcini:
Right.

Michael Grant:
You know three or four years ago I was telling you I had the pleasure of finally going through the Panama Canal. And I thought about you a lot.

Dennis Deconcini:
Yeah. There's a chapter in there about that. And that was my first really initiation into the Washington scene.

Michael Grant:
And you were front and center real early and real quickly. I mean you became known as the real swing voter.

Dennis Deconcini:
Well, came in swinging. And the reason that I changed my vote on it when I changed my position. Rather, I had campaigned against giving away or transferring the treaty. I went back to Washington and was committed to that. And I just educated myself. And then at the time I realized that the Carter administration was making misrepresentations to the Congress and to the United States to use military force unilaterally. After going down there and talking to dictator, Trujillo, it was very clear he didn't think we had that right. I offered an amendment. When they first turned me down I thought, that's great. I can vote the way I said I would. When they didn't have the votes, they needed me and brought three or four other senators along and it passed. It was the right thing to do.

Michael Grant:
I was going to ask you. Any doubt?

Dennis Deconcini:
No. Particularly in retrospect. At the time there was doubt. And would you without the intervention clause up there, it's quite unique. The first George Bush used it when he invaded Panama and took out Noriega; he cited the Deconcini amendment that had to be adopted in Panama. Some people disagree. They say we should own it. It's ours; we did it, what have you. In reality, to be a superpower today you have to have some -- you have to have some humility. And that's hard when you're the big boy on the block all the time. You have to have some humility. I hope we get back to that.

Michael Grant:
You're getting some vigorous nods of your head over there, Jack.

Jack August:
Yes. I really liked working with the senator on that chapter. It's, I think, a very courageously stated chapter. And again this is Dennis Deconcini's voice in this book. And it was a complicated issue. I think we stated clearly and I think forcefully what happened and how Senator Deconcini came to the conclusion to vote as he did and to craft the Deconcini Reservation. It was actually a complicated piece of legislation.

Michael Grant:
Well, back here, the firm feeling among political pundits was that you were a dead man walking. And it shows you what we know --

Dennis Deconcini:
Well I was lucky.

Michael Grant:
Senator Deconcini.

Dennis Deconcini:
I pray a lot, too.

Michael Grant:
It's good to see you.

Dennis Deconcini:
Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Best of luck with the book. Jack August, thanks for being here as well.

Michael Grant:
Senator Deconcini was political contemporary of one of the most controversial Arizona politicians of all time, former Governor Evan Meacham. No other political figure has had as much impact on Arizona's reputation in the past 20 years as Meacham. A perennial candidate and anti-establishment conservative, Evan Meacham lasted 15 months as governor before he was impeached.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. It's been exactly two months since Evan Meacham took the oath of offers as Arizona's first Republican governor in 12 years. By and large it has been a fairly tumultuous time. His budget proposal for the next fiscal year has been largely ignored by lawmakers and reaction to many of his appointments has been something less than enthusiastic.

Reporter:
Yesterday the process of calling a recall election against Governor Meacham entered a new phase. Over 388,000 signatures were submitted to the secretary of state's office as hundreds of recall supporters outside the capitol building chanted for the governor's removal.

Michael Grant:
I'm Michael Grant. Another chapter in Arizona history was written today as the state's Senate opened its impeachment trial of Governor Meacham. Governor Meacham has been convicted on impeachment charges. He becomes the eighth governor in the United States history to be forced out of office through the impeachment process. Late this afternoon senators decided to take a vote. The first one came within two votes of acquitting the governor on Article I, the obstruction of justice charge. The second vote was more lopsided, 24-6 against the governor where he was found to be guilty of misusing his protocol fund. Finally senators voted not to disbar from Meacham from holding any other public office in the state Arizona. Keven speaking of voting, any doubt whatsoever that this was the number one story in the past 25-years?

Keven Willey:
Absolutely not. I think the unanimity of -- around this table is proof of that.

Michael Grant:
You know, art, and actually it was an 18-month run. It was Evan Meacham bumping off the state's most powerful man, Burton Barr, in September. And then it ran for 18 months. It was just absolutely incredible.

Art Hamilton:
It was bizarre in the extreme. Everything that you would ever want to know and laugh about in Arizona politics happened in those 18 months. People kept saying, "hey, it can't get any worse." And at some point we figured out that only reason the governor opened his mouth was to change his socks. I mean, every time -- it was an event every time he spoke. We were actually selling tickets to people to go listen to the press conferences. They were a thing of absolute beauty.

Jana Bommersbach:
Do you remember how it consumed our lives? Everybody covering this, you ate, slept and drank -- you went to try to catch up with everybody else. Your whole life was consumed. You couldn't do the laundry, home improvements, anything. You were consumed with this thing.

Michael Grant:
I remember most about it that I always listen to the radio when I'm headed from the office over to the station. Then I was really listening to the radio, because there probably had been something concerning Evan Meacham in the last three hours we were going to have on the show and I was trying to camp up.

Mark Flatten:
If you compare Meacham to Watergate, Watergate was made by diligent, investigative reporting. Meacham -- the Meacham story was made by micro-cassette recorders. You would literally get up, look at your schedule. Oh, Evan is giving a speech to the rotary club. You'd go and didn't have to ask him a question. You just turned on your tape recorder.

Keven Willey:
There was a real lesson of journalism here, in that many people who had covered Evan Meacham's five or six campaigns for office knew quite well what kind of a wing nut he was. But because those stories had been written and some reporters had written them two or three dozen times, I think that going into the '86 campaign he was subjected to far less scrutiny than he should have been. Because people were, we've already written that. We've already read that. What we for got was Arizona has a transient population. Just because we knew of his previous campaign statements, most of the state did not. I think in hindsight, even for those of us who covered the campaign -- in October of '86 I remember doing a very in depth Meacham story I later was very proud of, I don't think we did enough of that.

Jana Bommersbach:
I think what's interesting is that Meacham was a real oddity when he finally came on the scene, took power and was elected. This was a very extreme right wing guy, really weird ideas. Term of endearment to the black community and tin foil on your head because there were radio waves.

Keven Willey:
Socialist.

Jana Bommersbach:
Right, all this bizarre stuff. What strikes me now 25-years later is that that's kind of the normal. We look at all the other dip sticks. So much of Meacham's stuff is now there in the literature every day.

Mark Flatten:
If you look at what Meacham did legislatively as the governor, it wasn't that nutty. When you talk to somebody like Jim Skully who is a very conservative guy, he said, the things he was doing in the legislature, in bills was fine. But it was his mouth that kept getting him into trouble. I still remember a press conference during the impeachment. Meacham got up -- I think it was a press conference -- and just was outraged. He said, this impeachment is nothing more than a political trial. And we all just kind of looked at each other and went, yeah. And that really was Meacham's downfall was politics.

Michael Grant:
What was the big message from this thing? I mean, there's a lot of doubt as to whether or not Meacham should have been impeached or we should have let the other processes play out.

Art Hamilton:
I said it before and I'll say it again, if I had it to do over again I would let the recall go forward. He was impeached, convicted, removed. He managed to get acquitted at his trial. For as long as he had been on the planet, even yet, he remained that but for the political trial he would have served his time out as governor. That's not true. But the fact of the matter is he believes even now he was railroaded. I do believe if I had it to do over again I'd let him swing in the breeze.

Jana Bommersbach:
Barry Goldwater probably had the best line. He said, we've had some damn good governors and mediocre ones. But it took us a long time to have a really bad one. Speaking about Evan Meacham.

Michael Grant:
The chief justice of Arizona's Supreme Court recently gave a "state of the judiciary" address. In that address, chief justice Ruth McGregor revealed that 97 percent of those who use Arizona courts rated judges as satisfactory or higher. Also, 94 percent said they were treated with courtesy and respect by court personnel. Here to tell us more about the state of the judiciary in Arizona is Justice McGregor. Justice, good to see you again.

Ruth McGregor:
Thank you. And let me add my thanks to you for your last 25 years, Michael. It doesn't seem possible it's been that long. You've done a great service to Arizona.

Michael Grant:
Well, you know, I think we met right around the time that Justice O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court, about 25 years ago.

Ruth McGregor:
Just about that time.

Michael Grant:
You know, last year at this time when you were here we were talking about the plan for the court to use the good to great concept. PBS recently ran a documentary about that. Did we go from good to great in the past year?

Ruth McGregor:
Well, we haven't gotten there yet but we certainly have made progress. Arizona is so fortunate to have really talented judges and clerks of the court and administrative staff and probation officers. And everybody has really responded so well to this challenge. So we've made great strides in a lot of areas of our court system. The problem, I guess, with trying to get to great is that it's a moving target. The better you get the more you see you can do. So we'll never really entirely finish this journey. But we're moving along the road.

Michael Grant:
You know, Arizonans, I don't think, really realize and of course not a lot of people know that I'm an attorney. But the Arizona court system is really very well-regarded throughout the country. It's a little bit of a local secret, I think.

Ruth McGregor:
It is. I don't know why we don't know this so well in Arizona, but across the country Arizona's courts are really looked to as being innovative. There's very seldom any question about the integrity of our courts.

Michael Grant:
Efficient.

Ruth McGregor:
Yeah. We're efficient. And one of the things that's really important is that although we've been recognized for all of those things, we continue to look for ways to improve and to make them better. And that's what I think you have to do in order to keep a court system that is well-regarded and really responds to the needs of the public.

Michael Grant:
Which leads logically to one of the first points you talked about in the state of the judiciary and that was swift, fair justice.

Ruth McGregor:
Right.

Michael Grant:
What's the plan there?

Ruth McGregor:
Well, we have a lot of plans. Of course, what we're trying to do is assure that everybody has access to the courts. And you know, the courts are affected just like all other parts of Arizona by the growth of this state. We have more cases, we have to have more judges, we have more people who represent themselves because they can't afford to have a lawyer represent them. And all of these things are challenges as to how we continue to process those cases in a way that assures that people are treated fairly. It also means that they move through the system. Because that benefits both the victims and the defendants in criminal cases, and both parties in civil cases. In family court, it's important the decisions get made swift in terms of child support and custody. So in all of these areas we have to constantly look to use new technology, to adopt new rules in the court, to try to find ways that we can be ever more efficient.

Michael Grant:
I was just going to mention the technology point. Is it being deployed, all of the new whiz-bang stuff, most of which baffles me? But is it being deployed effectively in the court system?

Ruth McGregor:
Yes. That is part of the court system that has just changed dramatically over the last 15-years. About 15 years ago, the legislature dedicated some funding for technology in the court system to use statewide. Before that time we had no technology in the court. And now, everything is -- some things are centralized. Some things are still local. But we use technology throughout the court system. We just finished, in fact, last month rolling out a new program for our adult probation so that everything is now computerized and our probation officers all across the state have access to information about probationers who are in other counties as well as exactly what's happening to those where they have oversight. We've done a lot of things, Mike, we have a data warehouse where we compile information from courts all across the state.

Michael Grant:
Moving to e-filings from paper filing.

Ruth McGregor:
That's right. And this is something just within the last few years where we're allowing people now to file documents -- well, they don't really file documents. They file electronic documents. Used to be they'd be produced electronically in the lawyer's office then we'd convert them into paper and they'd come back into court and we'd scan them and convert them back to an electronic method. So by allowing direct electronic filing we save a lot of expense, steps for the parties and expense for the courts as far as having to store all those documents.

Michael Grant:
Another point that you talked about was protecting children, families and communities? How so?

Ruth McGregor:
Right. Well, we do that in a number of ways. One of the things that's really important is the way that we treat victims in our courts. And we've done a number of things. Last year I set up a standing committee on victims in the courts that reports directly to the judicial council to make sure our judges and staff are treating victims appropriately and are assuring that rights that our state constitution gives them are followed. We've also made arrangements where victims can sign up for notification of what happens in their cases in Maricopa County. Are the superior courts aren't ready for that but we'll to that as soon as technology allows so they know immediately when a judge enters an order in that case if they have access to e-mail. We've adopted a new family court rule that really moves cases again better through the courts, gets earlier decisions on important marts that otherwise would fester and lead to further disputes. So we look to a lot of different areas that we really protect families and children within our court system.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. But I learned recently that the federal system has patterned somewhat a similar system off of Arizona's victims' rights package.

Ruth McGregor:
Yes. That's something that Arizona was one of the first states to adopt victims' rights, both through court rule and later by constitution and statute. And we'll be further ahead by the time they get where we are, the others.

Michael Grant:
Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, thanks for joining us and informing us about the state of the judiciary.

Ruth McGregor:
Thank you, Mike.

Larry Lemmons:
Should Scottsdale's photo radar on the Loop 101 be expanded throughout the state? Governor Napolitano likes the idea. Some in the legislature don't. And a Cronkite-eight poll looks at what voters think of senator John McCain's run for the White House. The Journalist's Roundtable Friday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

Michael Grant:
We'll also cover another issue we polled on this week, and that is what Arizonans think ought to be priorities for the legislature this legislative session. All that, probably even more tomorrow on Friday's edition of "Horizon." Thank you very much for joining us on this Thursday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

state of Arizona Courts


  • A look at the state of the courts in Arizona with Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor.
Guests:
  • Dennis DeConcini - Former U.S. Senator
  • Jack August - Arizona Historical Foundation
  • Ruth McGregor - Chief Justice, Arizona State Supreme Court
Category: Law

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," former Senator Dennis Deconcini has a new book out. He writes about his sometimes contentious relationship with Senator John McCain. Hear from Deconcini and the book's co-author. It was the biggest story we ever covered on "Horizon" -- the Evan Meacham saga. We'll give you a recap of our coverage. And what's the state of Arizona's courts? Arizona's Supreme Court chief justice has the answer. That's coming up on horizon.

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the contributions of the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Former U.S. Senator Dennis Deconcini took some time to sign copies of his new book at Arizona State University recently. The book is called "Senator Dennis Deconcini: From the Center of the Aisle." The book details his early life, as well as his time in the United States Senate. Here now to tell us about the book is Senator Deconcini and the co-author of the book, Jack August Jr. Gentlemen, Senator, good to see you.

Dennis Deconcini:
Good to see you. Congratulations on your soon-to-be retirement, huh?

Michael Grant:
On my departure?

Dennis Deconcini:
Like I always said good to get out before they vote you out. You've done a great job here for many years, including numerous debates that I've sat here where you handled them most professionally.

Michael Grant:
I appreciate that. Jack, is it a linear tale? Chronological?

Jack August Jr.:
For the most part. I think the first chapter, which was Senator Deconcini's idea, we start with his first days in office, and what a big impact that was, and how he won that somewhat surprising and remarkable election in 1976 over Sam Steiger. And then we go back to his childhood in the second chapter. So for the most part it's lineal, chronological, but that first chapter's a grabber. I'm real happy with it.

Michael Grant:
Senator, you and I have a lot of elections under our belt. Me watching them and you conducting them. I will tell you, the '76 race, that republican primary between Sam Steiger and John Conlin and in the battle between you and Steiger, that stands out as one of the top two or three here in the past 40-years.

Dennis Deconcini:
I just got lucky.

[Laughter]

Dennis Deconcini:
Now Sam, you know --

Michael Grant:
Kind of staggered out.

Dennis Deconcini:
He did. He turned out to be his own worst enemy, god bless him. And I've dealt with him before and intervened for him in a legal matter because I thought the man was a decent guy. Notwithstanding, we had a very, very strong campaign. Some maybe bitter at the time. But it was a spirited little campaign. And it shows that somebody behind in the money -- I remember he had over 2 million, I had 650,000, you can pull it off.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, that's right. John McCain shows up in 1987. I understand that book goes into -- well, I'll characterize it this way. You guys were not exactly drinking buddies? Do I understand that?

Dennis Deconcini:
I think that's fair to say. There was a real effort on my wife and myself to do that when senator McCain was elected to the House of Representatives. He called me personally and asked me if my office would help set up constituent services within his office, which we did. I was glad to do that. When he moved to Washington and I had him to dinner at the house, it just didn't seem to tick, I guess. And when he came to the Senate it didn't seem to get any better from my perspective, at least. But I respect him. He's our senior senator.

Michael Grant:
Understood. I would think that for both of you those would be maybe particularly difficult episodes and incidents to put to paper?

Jack August:
Yes. It was a very I would say emotional chapter. And at the same time, we had to use a lot of rigor in terms of substantiating what was said. We did a lot of research together and fact checking, double-fact checking and having attorneys making sure every word was okay and every footnote at distribution was correct. So it was a tough section. But I think it's a very valid section.

Michael Grant:
An interesting point. You were there for 18 years.

Dennis Deconcini:
I was. And when you serve with somebody you get to know them pretty well. I served ten years with Barry Goldwater. And we had a very good relationship. We weren't drinking buddies, either, but we had a good, good relationship. Unfortunately with Senator McCain that wasn't the case. And although if you read the chapter 10 or 11, the one right after it about the federalism on the Indian nations, you'll see -- you'll hardly believe that I had something to do with writing the chapter before that. Because it's quite critical of senator McCain, the first one, then the following one is quite complimentary because we did some good work together.

Michael Grant:
What was the source of the --

Dennis Deconcini:
I don't know. I don't know. I wanted to make friends, not enemies. And apparently that didn't work.

Michael Grant:
Well, and the Arizona delegation, as you well know, had a reputation for hanging together as opposed to hanging separately.

Dennis Deconcini:
Michael, when I first went there, it was terrific. I mean, you had Barry Goldwater. And later in terms he didn't come to the breakfasts of the meetings we had. But he always sent somebody. And you had John roads and you had Eldon Rudd and Bob Stump. Then Jon Kyl and John McCain. And it kind of fell apart I have to say.

Michael Grant:
Any particular piece of this run that you found most fascinating, Jack?

Jack August:
Well, I found, from the story's perspective, that here's a very genteel, intelligent, elegant guy who's our senator. But I found out he's very competitive. And I don't think he can get into the arena, for example, and be a Tucson Democrat. And with an election in the state of Arizona like it was conceived at that point in history. That's one thing. Competition was a theme. Loyalty was another theme that really struck me and that the Senator was loyal to his staff, and the staff I interviewed was extremely loyal. It was reciprocal. Thirdly I call it the Steve-Nash factor. It seems as though everyone, Steve Nash makes all the players around him better. To a person, even the other night someone said, you know, it was a heart-felt statement from someone I didn't expect, he said, "Working around Dennis Deconcini made me a better person." There was unanimity around that. It wasn't meant to be that kind of event. But those three factors really stick out as I reflect on this work.

Dennis Deconcini:
Jack did a great job interviewing a lot of these staffers that someone else had to do.

Michael Grant:
Stopping the 15 game win streak.

Dennis Deconcini:
Right.

Michael Grant:
You know three or four years ago I was telling you I had the pleasure of finally going through the Panama Canal. And I thought about you a lot.

Dennis Deconcini:
Yeah. There's a chapter in there about that. And that was my first really initiation into the Washington scene.

Michael Grant:
And you were front and center real early and real quickly. I mean you became known as the real swing voter.

Dennis Deconcini:
Well, came in swinging. And the reason that I changed my vote on it when I changed my position. Rather, I had campaigned against giving away or transferring the treaty. I went back to Washington and was committed to that. And I just educated myself. And then at the time I realized that the Carter administration was making misrepresentations to the Congress and to the United States to use military force unilaterally. After going down there and talking to dictator, Trujillo, it was very clear he didn't think we had that right. I offered an amendment. When they first turned me down I thought, that's great. I can vote the way I said I would. When they didn't have the votes, they needed me and brought three or four other senators along and it passed. It was the right thing to do.

Michael Grant:
I was going to ask you. Any doubt?

Dennis Deconcini:
No. Particularly in retrospect. At the time there was doubt. And would you without the intervention clause up there, it's quite unique. The first George Bush used it when he invaded Panama and took out Noriega; he cited the Deconcini amendment that had to be adopted in Panama. Some people disagree. They say we should own it. It's ours; we did it, what have you. In reality, to be a superpower today you have to have some -- you have to have some humility. And that's hard when you're the big boy on the block all the time. You have to have some humility. I hope we get back to that.

Michael Grant:
You're getting some vigorous nods of your head over there, Jack.

Jack August:
Yes. I really liked working with the senator on that chapter. It's, I think, a very courageously stated chapter. And again this is Dennis Deconcini's voice in this book. And it was a complicated issue. I think we stated clearly and I think forcefully what happened and how Senator Deconcini came to the conclusion to vote as he did and to craft the Deconcini Reservation. It was actually a complicated piece of legislation.

Michael Grant:
Well, back here, the firm feeling among political pundits was that you were a dead man walking. And it shows you what we know --

Dennis Deconcini:
Well I was lucky.

Michael Grant:
Senator Deconcini.

Dennis Deconcini:
I pray a lot, too.

Michael Grant:
It's good to see you.

Dennis Deconcini:
Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Best of luck with the book. Jack August, thanks for being here as well.

Michael Grant:
Senator Deconcini was political contemporary of one of the most controversial Arizona politicians of all time, former Governor Evan Meacham. No other political figure has had as much impact on Arizona's reputation in the past 20 years as Meacham. A perennial candidate and anti-establishment conservative, Evan Meacham lasted 15 months as governor before he was impeached.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. It's been exactly two months since Evan Meacham took the oath of offers as Arizona's first Republican governor in 12 years. By and large it has been a fairly tumultuous time. His budget proposal for the next fiscal year has been largely ignored by lawmakers and reaction to many of his appointments has been something less than enthusiastic.

Reporter:
Yesterday the process of calling a recall election against Governor Meacham entered a new phase. Over 388,000 signatures were submitted to the secretary of state's office as hundreds of recall supporters outside the capitol building chanted for the governor's removal.

Michael Grant:
I'm Michael Grant. Another chapter in Arizona history was written today as the state's Senate opened its impeachment trial of Governor Meacham. Governor Meacham has been convicted on impeachment charges. He becomes the eighth governor in the United States history to be forced out of office through the impeachment process. Late this afternoon senators decided to take a vote. The first one came within two votes of acquitting the governor on Article I, the obstruction of justice charge. The second vote was more lopsided, 24-6 against the governor where he was found to be guilty of misusing his protocol fund. Finally senators voted not to disbar from Meacham from holding any other public office in the state Arizona. Keven speaking of voting, any doubt whatsoever that this was the number one story in the past 25-years?

Keven Willey:
Absolutely not. I think the unanimity of -- around this table is proof of that.

Michael Grant:
You know, art, and actually it was an 18-month run. It was Evan Meacham bumping off the state's most powerful man, Burton Barr, in September. And then it ran for 18 months. It was just absolutely incredible.

Art Hamilton:
It was bizarre in the extreme. Everything that you would ever want to know and laugh about in Arizona politics happened in those 18 months. People kept saying, "hey, it can't get any worse." And at some point we figured out that only reason the governor opened his mouth was to change his socks. I mean, every time -- it was an event every time he spoke. We were actually selling tickets to people to go listen to the press conferences. They were a thing of absolute beauty.

Jana Bommersbach:
Do you remember how it consumed our lives? Everybody covering this, you ate, slept and drank -- you went to try to catch up with everybody else. Your whole life was consumed. You couldn't do the laundry, home improvements, anything. You were consumed with this thing.

Michael Grant:
I remember most about it that I always listen to the radio when I'm headed from the office over to the station. Then I was really listening to the radio, because there probably had been something concerning Evan Meacham in the last three hours we were going to have on the show and I was trying to camp up.

Mark Flatten:
If you compare Meacham to Watergate, Watergate was made by diligent, investigative reporting. Meacham -- the Meacham story was made by micro-cassette recorders. You would literally get up, look at your schedule. Oh, Evan is giving a speech to the rotary club. You'd go and didn't have to ask him a question. You just turned on your tape recorder.

Keven Willey:
There was a real lesson of journalism here, in that many people who had covered Evan Meacham's five or six campaigns for office knew quite well what kind of a wing nut he was. But because those stories had been written and some reporters had written them two or three dozen times, I think that going into the '86 campaign he was subjected to far less scrutiny than he should have been. Because people were, we've already written that. We've already read that. What we for got was Arizona has a transient population. Just because we knew of his previous campaign statements, most of the state did not. I think in hindsight, even for those of us who covered the campaign -- in October of '86 I remember doing a very in depth Meacham story I later was very proud of, I don't think we did enough of that.

Jana Bommersbach:
I think what's interesting is that Meacham was a real oddity when he finally came on the scene, took power and was elected. This was a very extreme right wing guy, really weird ideas. Term of endearment to the black community and tin foil on your head because there were radio waves.

Keven Willey:
Socialist.

Jana Bommersbach:
Right, all this bizarre stuff. What strikes me now 25-years later is that that's kind of the normal. We look at all the other dip sticks. So much of Meacham's stuff is now there in the literature every day.

Mark Flatten:
If you look at what Meacham did legislatively as the governor, it wasn't that nutty. When you talk to somebody like Jim Skully who is a very conservative guy, he said, the things he was doing in the legislature, in bills was fine. But it was his mouth that kept getting him into trouble. I still remember a press conference during the impeachment. Meacham got up -- I think it was a press conference -- and just was outraged. He said, this impeachment is nothing more than a political trial. And we all just kind of looked at each other and went, yeah. And that really was Meacham's downfall was politics.

Michael Grant:
What was the big message from this thing? I mean, there's a lot of doubt as to whether or not Meacham should have been impeached or we should have let the other processes play out.

Art Hamilton:
I said it before and I'll say it again, if I had it to do over again I would let the recall go forward. He was impeached, convicted, removed. He managed to get acquitted at his trial. For as long as he had been on the planet, even yet, he remained that but for the political trial he would have served his time out as governor. That's not true. But the fact of the matter is he believes even now he was railroaded. I do believe if I had it to do over again I'd let him swing in the breeze.

Jana Bommersbach:
Barry Goldwater probably had the best line. He said, we've had some damn good governors and mediocre ones. But it took us a long time to have a really bad one. Speaking about Evan Meacham.

Michael Grant:
The chief justice of Arizona's Supreme Court recently gave a "state of the judiciary" address. In that address, chief justice Ruth McGregor revealed that 97 percent of those who use Arizona courts rated judges as satisfactory or higher. Also, 94 percent said they were treated with courtesy and respect by court personnel. Here to tell us more about the state of the judiciary in Arizona is Justice McGregor. Justice, good to see you again.

Ruth McGregor:
Thank you. And let me add my thanks to you for your last 25 years, Michael. It doesn't seem possible it's been that long. You've done a great service to Arizona.

Michael Grant:
Well, you know, I think we met right around the time that Justice O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court, about 25 years ago.

Ruth McGregor:
Just about that time.

Michael Grant:
You know, last year at this time when you were here we were talking about the plan for the court to use the good to great concept. PBS recently ran a documentary about that. Did we go from good to great in the past year?

Ruth McGregor:
Well, we haven't gotten there yet but we certainly have made progress. Arizona is so fortunate to have really talented judges and clerks of the court and administrative staff and probation officers. And everybody has really responded so well to this challenge. So we've made great strides in a lot of areas of our court system. The problem, I guess, with trying to get to great is that it's a moving target. The better you get the more you see you can do. So we'll never really entirely finish this journey. But we're moving along the road.

Michael Grant:
You know, Arizonans, I don't think, really realize and of course not a lot of people know that I'm an attorney. But the Arizona court system is really very well-regarded throughout the country. It's a little bit of a local secret, I think.

Ruth McGregor:
It is. I don't know why we don't know this so well in Arizona, but across the country Arizona's courts are really looked to as being innovative. There's very seldom any question about the integrity of our courts.

Michael Grant:
Efficient.

Ruth McGregor:
Yeah. We're efficient. And one of the things that's really important is that although we've been recognized for all of those things, we continue to look for ways to improve and to make them better. And that's what I think you have to do in order to keep a court system that is well-regarded and really responds to the needs of the public.

Michael Grant:
Which leads logically to one of the first points you talked about in the state of the judiciary and that was swift, fair justice.

Ruth McGregor:
Right.

Michael Grant:
What's the plan there?

Ruth McGregor:
Well, we have a lot of plans. Of course, what we're trying to do is assure that everybody has access to the courts. And you know, the courts are affected just like all other parts of Arizona by the growth of this state. We have more cases, we have to have more judges, we have more people who represent themselves because they can't afford to have a lawyer represent them. And all of these things are challenges as to how we continue to process those cases in a way that assures that people are treated fairly. It also means that they move through the system. Because that benefits both the victims and the defendants in criminal cases, and both parties in civil cases. In family court, it's important the decisions get made swift in terms of child support and custody. So in all of these areas we have to constantly look to use new technology, to adopt new rules in the court, to try to find ways that we can be ever more efficient.

Michael Grant:
I was just going to mention the technology point. Is it being deployed, all of the new whiz-bang stuff, most of which baffles me? But is it being deployed effectively in the court system?

Ruth McGregor:
Yes. That is part of the court system that has just changed dramatically over the last 15-years. About 15 years ago, the legislature dedicated some funding for technology in the court system to use statewide. Before that time we had no technology in the court. And now, everything is -- some things are centralized. Some things are still local. But we use technology throughout the court system. We just finished, in fact, last month rolling out a new program for our adult probation so that everything is now computerized and our probation officers all across the state have access to information about probationers who are in other counties as well as exactly what's happening to those where they have oversight. We've done a lot of things, Mike, we have a data warehouse where we compile information from courts all across the state.

Michael Grant:
Moving to e-filings from paper filing.

Ruth McGregor:
That's right. And this is something just within the last few years where we're allowing people now to file documents -- well, they don't really file documents. They file electronic documents. Used to be they'd be produced electronically in the lawyer's office then we'd convert them into paper and they'd come back into court and we'd scan them and convert them back to an electronic method. So by allowing direct electronic filing we save a lot of expense, steps for the parties and expense for the courts as far as having to store all those documents.

Michael Grant:
Another point that you talked about was protecting children, families and communities? How so?

Ruth McGregor:
Right. Well, we do that in a number of ways. One of the things that's really important is the way that we treat victims in our courts. And we've done a number of things. Last year I set up a standing committee on victims in the courts that reports directly to the judicial council to make sure our judges and staff are treating victims appropriately and are assuring that rights that our state constitution gives them are followed. We've also made arrangements where victims can sign up for notification of what happens in their cases in Maricopa County. Are the superior courts aren't ready for that but we'll to that as soon as technology allows so they know immediately when a judge enters an order in that case if they have access to e-mail. We've adopted a new family court rule that really moves cases again better through the courts, gets earlier decisions on important marts that otherwise would fester and lead to further disputes. So we look to a lot of different areas that we really protect families and children within our court system.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. But I learned recently that the federal system has patterned somewhat a similar system off of Arizona's victims' rights package.

Ruth McGregor:
Yes. That's something that Arizona was one of the first states to adopt victims' rights, both through court rule and later by constitution and statute. And we'll be further ahead by the time they get where we are, the others.

Michael Grant:
Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, thanks for joining us and informing us about the state of the judiciary.

Ruth McGregor:
Thank you, Mike.

Larry Lemmons:
Should Scottsdale's photo radar on the Loop 101 be expanded throughout the state? Governor Napolitano likes the idea. Some in the legislature don't. And a Cronkite-eight poll looks at what voters think of senator John McCain's run for the White House. The Journalist's Roundtable Friday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

Michael Grant:
We'll also cover another issue we polled on this week, and that is what Arizonans think ought to be priorities for the legislature this legislative session. All that, probably even more tomorrow on Friday's edition of "Horizon." Thank you very much for joining us on this Thursday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

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