Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 31, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Merit Selection


  • We discuss HCR 2063, a bill that would require elections for Superior Court judges in Arizona counties, including Maricopa and Pima. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, will discuss the issue with House Minority Leader Rep. Phil Lopes of Tucson.
Guests:
  • Russell Pearce - State Representative
  • Phil Lopes - Minority Leader of the House
  • Barrett Marson - Spokesman, State House Republicans
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon", Superior Court judges are not elected in Maricopa and Pima counties, but that could change in the future. Issues bubbling up in the State Legislature and upcoming elections are confronted by our political antagonists in "One-On-One". And a look at the promises and challenges ahead for the Phoenix Symphony. That's next, on "Horizon".

>>Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the "Friends of Eight": members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The State Legislature is considering House Concurrent Resolution 2063. That resolution would eliminate merit selection for Superior Court judges, and establish elections for those judges in counties with a population over 800,000. Almost two years ago, "Horizon" profiled two candidates for Superior Court judge in Pinal County, which does elect judges. At that time, Republican incumbent judge April Elliot, who'd been appointed by Governor Napolitano, was running against Democratic attorney Brenda Oldham, who eventually won the election, and is currently Division 8 judge. They offered these thoughts on merit selection, and the electing of judges.

>>Brenda Oldham:
it is grueling, to say the very least. It is a grueling experience, it takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of time. But it's also a really - a great experience, because I am a people person. I love to talk to people, and I love getting out there and talking to the members of my Community. I am bonding, I am meeting people, I'm getting to know things about people in the County that, if I wasn't out walking on the streets at some of the activities, and going to the community activities, and the women's meetings, and the senior club, I would never have the opportunity to know that about the people in the community.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Elliot says she also has enjoyed meeting the voters. But she said running for election can intrude on her time as judge.

>>April Elliot:
it does. I mean, if you want to keep this job, you have to get out there and campaign. That's an advantage my opponent has, in that she is not required to be here Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:00, to already serve the public. She can be out there doing it. So it is hard to, if you have a hearing go off, you can sort of then leave to go into various service club meetings, or go out and gather signatures. But it's difficult, and it's also difficult in terms of what the Code of Judicial Conduct limits you, in terms of being able to do while you campaign. Most people would probably - most other political candidates are able to actually personally solicit money and accept money. I cannot. That all has to be done through my committee. So, they want you to run in, many ways, as a traditional candidate, but you can't do many of the same things a traditional candidate can do.

>>Brenda Oldham:
There is an advantage to not be appointed to this position in a County where elections are held for the judges. And the advantage certainly is that because I am in private practice, I can manage my practice so that I may be more available to events in the Community during the day, than what someone who has been appointed to fill the position until an election can be held can do.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Merit selection has been promoted as an alternative to an election. The highest state court use this system.

>>April Elliot:
I think the reasoning behind it, at least at the Appellate and the Supreme Court level, was to preserve sort of that independence and impartiality into the Judiciary to remove you from the standard things that go on in an election process, and with all the politics that are associated with it. Although there's a lot of politics that go on, in terms of courting members of the Merit Selection Committee, so it's not completely removed from - politics is not completely removed from the Merit Selection process, but it is removed to a greater degree than it is in the election process. And I also think why they included Pima and Maricopa counties' Superior Court judge level is because those counties have just become too large to run a campaign.

>>Larry Lemmons:
And there's a question of Conflict of Interest. Will a judge face an attorney who's contributed to a campaign?

>>Brenda Oldham:
Is it upon - One of the difficulties in running for Judicial Office is the finance end of it. Because you have to avoid the impropriety of having any unethical issues and situations coming up. But at the same time, you're - you are not allowed, as a judge, to solicit contributions. But your committee is allowed to accept them on your behalf. So it is - it's a fine line, and it's difficult. But it's important that you have to maintain that distance from the money part of your campaign.

>>Ted Simons:
Joining us now to talk more on this, the Resolution sponsor, Representative Russell Pearce of Mesa, and Minority Leader of the House, Phil Lopes of Tucson. Thank you both for joining us here on "Horizon."

>>Phil Lopes, Russell Pearce:
Good to be here, Ted.

>>Ted Simons:
Alright. It's your bill. It's your idea here at least. Why should judges be elected in the State's two largest counties?

>>Russell Pearce:
Well, first of all, I trust the people of this State, and with the Retention Process vs. a lifetime appointment. And like Judge (Antonin) Scalia said, the Courts have become kind of out of control with this independent judicial philosophy they have of not being accountable, it has really gotten out of hand. Example, and you can name lots of, but take last November, the citizens of this State passed Proposition 100 by 78\%. That is, no Illegal Aliens can receive bond if they have committed a serious crime, and are here illegally. In spite of that, it passed by 78\%, the judges in Maricopa County, in 94.7\% of the cases, issued bond in direct violation of that constitutional amendment. Had they been elected, that wouldn't have happened. And Judge Scalia points out very clearly, that on the national level, the same thing is going on. The independence of the judiciary has gotten out of hand. And, you know, best compelling argument for judges, in terms of accountability, in having to return to the masses from whence they came, called "the people": "We the People". And there's a competition where you can identify. Today, they have no idea good or bad judges, because there is no ability to identify without a campaign.

>>Ted Simons:
Phil, doesn't electing judges mean accountability?

>>Phil Lopes:
No. What this effort is is to try to make judges ideologically accountable, instead of allowing them to be fair and impartial. During the 2003-2005 period in the Legislature, there were 19 bills introduced - total - to try to do something around judges and their selection. All of those failed. They should have failed because it simply is an idea whose time has come and gone. Representative Pearce mentioned Judge Scalia. No lesser a person than Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas thinks that election of judges is a bad idea. He sees no benefit in it. As a matter of fact, he relates the elections of judges to allowing football fans, say ASU fans and U of A Fans, to elect the referees of a football game. It just doesn't make any sense.

>>Russell Pearce:
And that's not true. The heart of the problem is very simple. You have a political process - it is a political process, make no doubt about it, and that is the appointment of judges through a political appointees, who decide and remove "We the People". And it is political, I can tell you I got a call from somebody who is sitting on the Commission, where they have overlooked more merited judges in order to get the diversity they want, while picking judges that did not score as high. I would trust the people of this State every day. And if accepting contributions, out-campaigning is a form of corruption, I guess the 13 Counties who elect judges in this State must all be corrupt. It is a process of bringing accountability to the Courts.

>>Ted Simons:
Really quickly, though, is the most electable judge, the best judge?

>>Russell Pearce:
Well, maybe not in every case. But is the most appointed judge the best judge? Not in every case. My case and point, when they skip over those with higher marks to go for some makeup, some reforming of the Courts that they want, whatever is their view, you've got several issues surrounding here when you come to the election of judges, and that is, more than anything else, it's their responsibility to have an Oath of Office and the Constitution. When you have bad judges, this Retention Process does not allow you to do anything about that. And that's why, in the proposal, we elect them in small districts, by Board of Supervisor Districts, six-year terms in Maricopa and Pima Counties, 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3. You have a small amount of judges, four, five, or six that are elected at one time, and the opportunity for somebody to run against that judge who is doing a bad job and expose them. Transparency: clear, convincing transparency, and "We the People" should be in charge of that.

>>Ted Simons:
That idea of districts and smaller voting populace, so you better know the judge, and have a better chance of understanding where the judge came from, and what the history is all about. That makes sense to you?

>>Phil Lopes:
We now do that in small counties, and there is an argument that seemed compelling that if you live in a place where you've got - that's very small and you have the opportunity to know people, that it makes sense. But in this instance, it simply does not. And Mr. Pearce talks about accountability, and letting the people decide. The people have decided twice: in 1974, they decided to have Merit Selection of the judges, and in 1996, they set in place the Judicial Performance Review process. And both of those things, together, offer accountability. I just got a message today, for example, from the Commission. They've got 17 candidates to fill a position on the Maricopa County bench. And they open it up, they let people come and listen and participate. That's accountability.

>>Russell Pearce:
It's just not true. People are out there working. They have no idea. I get the call every election, "who are the good guys and the bad guys?" 90 of them on there - 95 of them on there. That's why you break it down, in a competitive process, one that is transparent, where "We the People" can decide, after listening to debates between vying candidates. And if you're a good judge, you're probably not going to get opposition from somebody in the community.

>>Ted Simons:
But you just said something: if you're a good judge or a judge that everyone likes, should everyone like a judge?

>>Russell Pearce:
Well, I think there's a method. They talk about out there competing, and running around the County and competing. But why in the world would Pinal County deserves to elect their judges, but Maricopa County citizens don't deserve to elect their judges? In this HCR 2063 allows for them to vote on it. Things have happened since they've voted on this. We've never removed a judge in this Retention Process - one that was convicted of drug charges, one that sent a gal that's 14 years old out of State in her third trimester of pregnancy, in direct violation of the law. They were retained and never removed because there was no opposition, and it was far enough into the term that they simply - voters didn't have a real choice, and it was wrong.

>>Phil Lopes:
Think of this. If we had election of judges, for example, when the "Brown vs. Board of Education" case was decided, it was obvious that the public was on one side of that issue. But the court decided on the other side of that issue. They decided because they were trying to do it based on the law, and not what the public wanted.

>>Ted Simons:
But the argument against Retention Elections is that it's a joke, that people don't know what they voted. They just vote yes, n, or don't vote at all.

>>Phil Lopes:
Let me put it this way. The amount of information that's available through the Judicial Performance Review Process is much, much greater than what would be available in a campaign. And you know, and Mr. Pearce knows, and I know, what you say in a campaign is a lot of soundbytes. But what you've got in a Judicial Performance Review, it's all the record.

>>Ted Simons:
You got 30 seconds.

>>Russell Pearce:
That's not quite true, because first of all, that review is done by bureaucrats and attorneys and the Bar. It's not an accountability process or why you vote constitutional. It's a matter of whether they like you or not, not "We the People". And I would trust the people of this State any day. And when you talk about rule on the law, I agree that. They should be ruling on the law, the merits of the law. But today, what's happening is they rule on their personal opinion, and decide that'll be law. It's time to bring them back under the umbrella of "We the People", and hold them accountable.

>>Ted Simons:
Alright gentlemen, we have to stop it right there. Thank you so much for joining us.

>>Phil Lopes, Russell Pearce:
Thank you. Thanks for having us.

>>Ted Simons:
Now for our regular Monday feature focusing on issues of concern to those watching the State Legislature and upcoming elections: two political types go "One-On-One". Tonight, Barrett Marson, the State House Republican spokesman, goes head to head with Emily Bittner, the Arizona Democratic Party's Communications Director.

>>Emily Bittner:
Hello, Barrett, it's good to be back.

>>Barrett Marson:
Good evening.

>>Emily Bittner:
First, we're going to start tonight by talking about House Concurrent Resolution 2044. Tomorrow's April Fool's Day, and so, it feels like the Legislature was a little bit early in pulling a prank on voters. House Concurrent Resolution 2044 would essentially roll back the Voter Protection Act, which voters passed after many attempts by the Legislature to roll back multiple initiatives that voters had passed, dealing with Early Childhood Education, eligibility for AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System). And so what this bill would do would be in times of a budget deficit, say you know what? It doesn't matter that the voters passed those initiatives, we're going to take the money from those initiatives to pay for what we want.

>>Barrett Marson:
It's not nearly that simple. You're oversimplifying it. What it does is it asks the voters, during economic hard times, which we're in now, it would give the Governor and the Legislature - and they would both have to agree - an ability to slow the growth of programs like AHCCCS, which right now are voter-protected. The problem is is when the voters passed some of the Propositions from a few years ago, we were rolling in money, and we had said also that Tobacco Taxes were going to pay for Indigent Healthcare, and health care for beyond just the Indigent, for the poor. It was well over the Federal Poverty Line. The problem is now that we're in harder times, and the Tobacco Tax isn't bringing in nearly as much money, and we'd like to ask the voters - this is, again, all voter driven. It is asking the voters, can we, the Legislature and the Governor, suspend some of this spending to meet the crisis that we have now or in the future?

>>Emily Bittner:
It seems in every time where there's economic hardship, where there might be a bit of a budget shortfall, the first programs to go are the programs that affect the most vulnerable, and are the program that affects schools. That's why voters had to vote to index K-12 spending to inflation. that's why voters had to act multiple times to increase AHCCCS eligibility to 100\% of the Federal Poverty Level, which, let me remind you, is $21,000 for a family of four. The minute we start rolling back those things that voters have told time and time again, and told us so firmly that they even passed a law that all of their voter-approved initiatives had to be protected, and had to be enforced by the Legislature, then I think we're really just - it's like a teenager asking to borrow the car from Mom and Dad, being told they can't, and then they go ahead and steal it from them.

>>Barrett Marson:
Well, I think - again, this is, again, going back to the voters, who have a lot to say on many different issues. They want things protected by - protected from funding. They also don't want to bankrupt the State. These - AHCCCS has gone up over a billion dollars, just since 2002. All of that is caseload. Not all is population growth. It's caseload growth because of the passage of Prop 204.

>>Emily Bittner:
I think you could ask any Arizonans on the street and say, "Do you think someone whose family earns $21,000 a year, that they should be eligible for some help from the Government?"

>>Barrett Marson:
Right, right. But it's not a question -

>>Emily Bittner:
They would say yes.

>>Barrett Marson:
But that's not the question, that help is going there. But you talk about the first thing -

>>Emily Bittner:
But it wouldn't if this passed.

>>Barrett Marson:
But you talk about the first thing that people want to cut are those important projects. No, that's not true. There's a bigger desire desire is to cut back on, say, the Department of Commerce that wastes some money.

>>Emily Bittner:
The reason, though, is that it had to be approved by voter initiative in the first place, was because the Legislature refused to spend any money on them.

>>Barrett Marson:
But the Legislature hasn't refused to spend money. What was told was that in Prop 204, we'll use Tobacco Taxes to increase spending on populations above the FPL, the Federal Poverty Line, and that's what has seen the driving force in caseload growth. That's been the problem, and now, it's time to rein in, or at least ask the voters, can the Legislature and Governor both agree, if they both agree, is it time to rein in some of that spending, only during economic hard times?

>>Emily Bittner:
So the Republican caucus, after being told, time and time again, by the voters, through the initiative and referendum process, that what they really wanted was to make sure that these programs were protected, this was passed by Republicans out of the House.

>>Barrett Marson:
And the only thing is, the voters also have said, don't add any spending for new programs, if it goes before the voters, without having a dedicated funding source. And that's what it is. But onto the next subject. Last week we saw an amazing thing happening. You and I talked about some of the CPS bills that were going through the Legislature. And it happened then, the next day, a bill came up that would open up CPS records in the event of a death of a child or a serious injury. And while the Governor's Office, and the Governor herself, had said that she supported those measures, we saw her lobbyists literally working the bill to defeat it. We saw one of her lobbyists send an expletive laden E-Mail to a Democrat member of the House floor, urging him to vote against it, when he didn't, sort of letting go his wrath on the member.

>>Emily Bittner:
Well -

>>Barrett Marson:
That was kind of questionable, but I think the bigger idea is the Governor, does she support opening up the CPS records or not? Because she had her lobbyist attempt to kill the bill.

>>Emily Bittner:
Well, I think what the Governor's lobbyist was actually addressing, and if you look through the public records request, if you look through the E-Mails themselves, was a specific amendment to the bill.

>>Barrett Marson:
No, no. You're wrong.

>>Emily Bittner:
No, no. I'm not, Barrett, because it was an Amendment to the bill. What the Governor's lobbyist wanted them to vote "no" on was an amendment. And the substance of that amendment -

>>Barrett Marson:
I know, but that's wrong. That's untrue.

>>Emily Bittner:
Barrett, can you let me finish?

>>Barrett Marson:
No, because that's a lie.

>>Emily Bittner:
It's not a lie. It was about an amendment.

>>Barrett Marson:
No, it wasn't. We started Third Reading the bill at 6:24 PM. You cannot add amendments to a bill during Third Reading. This was on the bill at 6:24.

>>Emily Bittner:
The Governor's Office is opposed to the amendment, Barrett.

>>Barrett Marson:
But the lobbyist sent an e-mail down saying, "vote 'no' on the bill" at 6:26 PM.

>>Emily Bittner:
Because the amendment itself is so destructive. let's talk about what the amendment does. Let's talk about the amendment in question. What everyone who's been working on CPS for years and years has been trying to accomplish is better, more cooperative relationships between law enforcement agencies and CPS case-workers. Completely makes sense. What this amendment does is it encourages CPS to have an adversarial relationship with law enforcement agencies.

>>Barrett Marson:
Again, you're wrong.

>>Emily Bittner:
It wants CPS to bring cases to court against the very law enforcement agencies it's supposed to be working with.

>>Barrett Marson:
First of all, what the amendment actually said was CPS may, when it finds that it has an overarching reason to make use of these documents -

>>Emily Bittner:
But by naming CPS in the amendment then you are required -

>>Barrett Marson:
Not required.

>>Emily Bittner: -
It doesn't require, but it does give CPS a burden.

>>Barrett Marson:
An ability, not a burden.

>>Emily Bittner:
You don't have to name CPS in the amendment to give CPS the ability. CPS certainly has the ability without the amendment. Why do you need the amendment to do that?

>>Barrett Marson:
OK, if you say they have the ability, why oppose it?

>>Emily Bittner:
Because it sets up an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between CPS and the law enforcement agencies.

>>Barrett Marson:
But they don't have to use it. So, you're saying something that doesn't have to be used is a reason to kill the entire bill? Is that what you are saying?

>>Emily Bittner:
But there are people who are saying that it ought to be used as a crutch, and I think this is a topic we will have to revisit next week.

>>Barrett Marson:
It's good seeing you, Emily.

>>Emily Bittner:
Bye.

>>Ted Simons:
Over the weekend, the conductor of the phoenix Symphony Michael Christie filled in for ailing "Maestro" Riccardo Muti at the New York Philharmonic. Christie is the Virginia J. Piper Music Director for the Phoenix Symphony. He was recently given a contract extension as the Symphony announce its new season. Larry Lemmons talked to Christie about the successes and challenges that face the Symphony.

[Music playing]

>>Michael Christie:
We're very fortunate to have the kind of musicians that we have residence in the Valley as members of the Phoenix Symphony. A lot of them came about 30 years ago, when Phoenix went through its rapid expansion, and now, we're going through another one of those. And so, a lot of people were recruited to come to Phoenix. The most skilled musicians of various orchestras. And so, we actually have already in the Orchestra, one of the most tremendous and varied skill sets of a lot of orchestras that I've worked with, a tremendous understanding of the repertoire, a great - just general knowledge of how orchestras work, way beyond what they actually get paid, frankly. But we're hoping to fix that, too.

[Music playing]

>>Larry Lemmons:
This open rehearsal comes on the day the Phoenix Symphony announces its upcoming season. The extension of Music Director Michael Christie's contract is applauded.

>>Michael Christie:
Clearly, I'm very excited to be here until at least 2015. I feel honored that the Board has conferred that upon me. One of the things I think is very intriguing about working here in the Valley is that every industry is adapting in very unique ways to suit a very particular audience or customer. And what that means for the arts and for the Symphony Orchestra is that we get a chance to break the molds of what is typical for a symphony orchestra.

>>Larry Lemmons:
And Christie's worked hard to break the mold, offering innovative ideas to attract a larger audience, and more financial support. He's been largely successful. Still, to ensure that some of the top musicians in the Country are retained and attracted, the Symphony must continue to seek out funding strategies.

>>Michael Christie:
I do note, with some concern, our ability to attract the next generation of musicians. We are lagging behind our sister orchestras when it comes to the benefits and salaries that we offer. So what I worry about is when a player that we currently have would retire, for example, or they would go and maybe audition for another orchestra, I worry that we won't have the kind of competitive advantage necessary to attract the next group of players that may devote the next 30 years to the Valley.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Aside from the long-term concerns, the Symphony's season promises talented artists and diverse offerings, and is expected to build upon its considerable reputation.

>>Michael Christie:
I think the 2008-2009 season is gonna be be one that continues to let us explore just what a symphony orchestras can do. I think the Symphony way outperform its salary, its - the relative position within the United States orchestral scene. And so, what I hope people take away from this is they really do have, tucked away in the Southwest of the United States, a true, high-level, super-professional, incredibly skilled group that can really play with the best of them.

>>Ted Simons:
Tomorrow on "Horizon": I'll talk with State Lawmakers about the pros and cons of changes being proposed to Arizona's Employer Sanctions Law. That law penalizes employers that knowingly hire illegal aliens. That's Tuesday, on "Horizon". And that is it for now. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ted Simons, you have a great evening.

>>Announcer:
If you have comments about "Horizon", please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. You name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon".

>>Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the "Friends of Eight": members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

What's on?
  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents