Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 2, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Chief Justice

  |   Video
  • In late March, Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, announced she will be retiring from the Arizona Supreme Court at the end of June. Jose Cardenas talks to McGregor about challenges facing Arizona’s judicial system, her accomplishments as Chief, and the process to find her replacement.
Guests:
  • Ruth McGregor - Arizona Chief Justice
Category: Law

View Transcript
Jose Cárdenas
>> good evening, and welcome to "horizon." I’m Jose Cárdenas. filling in for Ted Simons.

Jose Cárdenas
>>> late last month the chief justice of Arizona’s supreme court delivered her annual state of the judiciary speech to state lawmakers. it included an announcement that she will be retiring from the court at the end of June. joining me now to talk about Arizona’s courts and her decision to retire is Arizona supreme court chief justice, Ruth McGregor. welcome to "horizon." it's good to have you here.

Ruth McGregor
>> thank you.

Jose Cárdenas
>> you've been a guest many times before. this is the first time we have what I think is the sad occasion of your impending retirement. it came as a surprise to a lot of people.

Ruth McGregor
>> it did. I actually decided about a year ago that I was going to retire at the end of this June. my husband had decided to retire, we talked about it, and it seemed the right time. but I actually didn't want to go through a year of farewell lunches. so I decided to wait to announce it until the end of march of this year. that would mean there was enough time for people who are interested in applying for the position to do so, and still to have somebody else on the court by the time it starts its next session in September.

Jose Cárdenas
>> we want to talk about the process that the legislature and the governor will go through to select your replacement. before we do that, what are you going to do when you retire?

Ruth McGregor
>> I haven't made any detailed plans. I’m not going to go into other full-time employment. if I were going to be employed full-time I would stay on the court. it's a wonderful job. a place where we make a lot of difference. I’ll take on some projects, some discrete projects. I’ve gotten interested in voluntary tourism, where you go places for periods of a week or three months to help out. I’m interested in continuing some work with legal education, and with meetings that talk about the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence. so I’ll take on some projects of that sort. I might do a little teaching at some law schools.

Jose Cárdenas
>> let's talk about what you've been doing the last 20 years as an appellate court judge, specifically your term as chief justice. what would you say were your major accomplishments?

Ruth McGregor
>> we've done some really good things. I’ve only been a small part of these. they've obviously involved the work of a lot of people. but we've made great strides in using technology better within the courts, we're involved right now in two projects of a new case management system which will be of course great help to our courts across the state. we have to manage almost 3 million cases as year in Arizona’s courts. and so we need a much more robust case management system. we're also moving toward a statewide e-filing system, where people filing either by themselves or lawyers on their behalf will be able to go through one portal and be able to file in any of the courts around the state. the case management system for our superior courts will be rolled out we hope within the year, and e-filing will take another several years to have available. but those are two really exciting projects. we've done a lot of work with rules of court to make the courts more accessible. both to lawyers and to people representing themselves. we've sped up the process as far as handling d.u.i. cases and parental severance cases, getting those through the appellate process. we've really made big strides toward being more transparent toward letting people know more about the process we use to select and evaluate judges to our court and judicial disciplinary processes. I’m proud of the work we've done to make things more transparent.

Jose Cárdenas
>> I think many people would be surprised to know the scope of the activities that you supervise. it's not just the judges and the courts. tell us about the other things that come within your jurisdiction.

Ruth McGregor
>> by constitution, the Arizona supreme court is responsible for supervising the statewide court system. and that's true even though most of the funding for our courts comes from counties and municipalities. so we not only supervise the court system, but we have responsibility for the discipline of lawyers and of judges, where we -- we have responsibility for adopting all the rules that help manage things that go through the court. so we do a lot of things other than decide cases.

Jose Cárdenas
>> and probation.

Ruth McGregor
>> and we have responsibility in Arizona for probation, which is operated through the counties, but it's a court operated system.

Jose Cárdenas
>> now, many of the accomplishments you talked about were pursuant to your own plan for the court system, modeled after good to great. how do you think that's been reflected in the things you've done over the last four years?

Ruth McGregor
>> I think one of the things any strategic agenda, if it's well thought out does, is really help get buy-in from all parts of the system. and I think that we've been able to accomplish as much as we have because the various parts of our court system -- not just our judges, our clerks of court, our administrators and the staff, and we have hundreds of volunteers who work across Arizona, all of those people have been able to look at that and say, ok, we do this really well, but what can we do to make it better? and I think that people have recognized that this is a never ending process. we never get good enough. we always can get better. and that's what the good to great title of this strategic agenda was meant to convey. I think that the court system as a whole has looked for ways to in fact accomplish just that. to go from good to great.

Jose Cárdenas
>> how are you going to maintain that progress, given the impending budget cuts?

Ruth McGregor
>> it's difficult. the courts like every public entity are facing real problems as a result of the budget cuts. and of course the impact us not only at the state level, but at the county and municipalities level. we're looking very hard to see what we can do to cut back. but what is going to happen is we're going to have to cut back on some services. there's no way we can avoid it. we're going to have to have higher ratios in probation. some of our courts that have been so successful are drug courts. the night court and the weekend court that Maricopa county has been running, anything that is resource intensive is being cut back. and either scaled way back or it will be eliminated. the help we give to pro-pers, the people representing themselves in court, person-to-person help, will be reduced. the time it will take us to process cases will be reduced. there's going to be a real impact.

Jose Cárdenas
>> can you give us an idea of the size of the cuts in terms of dollars or percentage of the court's budget?

Ruth McGregor
>> for the state part of the budget, which is about 20% of what it costs to operate the courts across the country, we have incurred permanent cuts of more than 10%, and in addition, about $18 million in cuts that have been taken from some of our special funds. when you have about $100 million budget to begin with for the state funding part of our courts, that's a noticeable reduction. in our administrative office, the administrators who help us overseat court system, out of about 200 positions we have about 30 of them vacant. that's a big vacancy rate. and each month builds on itself. each month makes it a little more difficult for people to respond. let me give you one example. we certify court reporters. we have a woman who wants very much to be certified. she has passed all of the tests. her husband was just laid off so it's important for her to get this through quickly. we have to fingerprint and do a criminal background check. d.p.s. is backed up at least three weeks in doing fingerprint checks, criminal background checks. so until we get that, we can't process her application. and so all of the different parts of state government, losing resources, is going to impact the people of this state in more and more ways as we go forward.

Jose Cárdenas
>> and what are the dangers of an under funded court system?

Ruth McGregor
>> the biggest danger for me is that it really reduces the access that people have to our courts. our biggest responsibility is to provide a forum where people can get impartial decisions, whether it's in criminal cases or civil cases, or family cases, or juvenile cases. everybody deserves an opportunity to have an efficient court system give them a fairly -- give them a response within a reasonable time. and those times are going to extend. it's going to harm everybody who uses the court system.

Jose Cárdenas
>> I think people would be surprised to know that the court system actually generates some revenues.

Ruth McGregor
>> we generate a lot of revenue.

Jose Cárdenas
>> one of those programs is fair. tell us about those activities.

Ruth McGregor
>> we have the ongoing income generation, which comes from criminal fines, traffic fines. we generate about $380 million a year through those fines and fees and restitution. then we adopted a program about eight years ago to try to go back and get what our in essence our accounts receivable. old fines and fee and victim restitution that hadn't been collected. and in about the past seven years, we've collected $460 million in fines and fees and victim restitution orders that have been owing for a long time. so we actually bring a lot of money into the state. now, we don't get to keep it. it goes wherever the legislature directs by statute. and it supports a lot of different programs throughout the state. but to the extent that we lose resources, unless we can find another way of more efficiently collecting those revenues, I’m concerned that those collections also will fall off because we're just lacking people to carry things out.

Jose Cárdenas
>> chief, I want to take one of your latest initiatives, Arizona turbo court. what's that about?

Ruth McGregor
>> that's the state wide e-filing project where people will be able not only to file things electronically, something that many lawyers have been looking forward to, but where we will have interactive forms like turbo tax forms, like people like me who order things from internet companies, where people will be asked a series of questions, and those questions will allow this turbo form to fill out whatever they need. whether it's a request for child custody, or for child support payments, or whether it's for dissolution of a divorce or an eviction notice. these kinds of forms will be filled out, will be populated through the interview process, the electronic interview process.

Jose Cárdenas
>> let's discuss the merit selection process and the selection of your replacement.

Ruth McGregor
>> my replacement will be selected the way we select all of our appellate judges and our trial court judges in Maricopa and Pima Counties. In those states that have elections and in Arizona before merit selection, most judges first come to their position by appointment. about 80% of judges who are in election states actually come by appointment. and this is by appointment by the governor with no guiding principles. in Arizona, those people who are interested in taking my position on the supreme court will have to file applications with the commission on appellate court appointments. 10 lay people, five lawyers, and myself, who consider those. and then a group of those people will be selected for interviews. all of their applications will be posted on our website so people can look and see what kinds of people are applying. we will interview a group of them, and then we'll send a list that has to be politically balanced to the governor. we need to put at least three names on the list, but we can put more. and then the governor must choose from that list. so what the process has done in my view has made it impossible for somebody who is not qualified to be appointed to any of our merit selection positions. and that will be true of this position also.

Jose Cárdenas
>> when does the process get underway?

Ruth McGregor
>> we actually made the announcement yesterday or the day before. the applications are due by May 5th. some time between May 5th and the end of June the commission then will meet twice. once to decide who will be interviewed, and then the next time to interview. between those two meetings, there will be a lot of investigation that goes on and talking with people who know the applicants and looking into some of the work they've done in the past.

Jose Cárdenas
>> you made reference to the quality of the applicants. I think it's fair to say that the Arizona supreme court has been regarded as one of the top state supreme courts in the country for a number of years, particularly under your leadership. earlier in the program I mentioned the legislature's role, and of course the legislature doesn't have one right now. but there have been proposals year after year to have at a minimum the appointment subject to a legislative confirmation, to change merit selection, and I know you've been in this studio before talking about the dangers that that poses.

Ruth McGregor
>> right. The legislature does play some role because the senate confirms all of the members of the appointment commissions. so they actually play a role in that way. the governor recommends and the senate confirms. but one of the things that we have done as a result of merit selection in Arizona is, as much as possible I think we have taken partisan politics and special interest politics out of the equation for people being appointed as judges. we're supposed to be neutral. we don't represent any constituency. we're not supposed to further the policies of any political body. and if you look at the record of the Arizona supreme court, you can see that we don't line up politically. we do our best job to decide how a particular legal issue should come out. there's really no political jockeying there. that's something that's really unique. and as elections have become more and more partisan across the country, I think we're seeing more and more of the results of having a system unlike ours where people are elected on the basis of their political connections. we have developed a terrific judiciary in Arizona. I’ve got to so serve for 11 years on the supreme court. with a group of people who are so committed to what they're doing, who try so hard to be objective in resolving legal issues, it's a system that has really served Arizona well.

Jose Cárdenas
>> what do you see as a particular danger of having the system of elections? we do it now in the rural counties for certain of the positions, trial court positions.

Ruth McGregor
>> we do. and the reasoning, in the smaller counties people really know those persons running for judicial office. even in our rural counties in Arizona, we're starting to see the influx of greater and greater amounts of money. our judges in our rural counties now are having to raise $100,000, sometimes more, to run for election. that's a lot of money to be inserting into an election for a judge.

Jose Cárdenas
>> there's some proposals right now pending in the legislature that I think are of concern to the judiciary. some of them allowing -- requiring judges to answer questions about their positions on certain issues. can you talk about a few of those?

Ruth McGregor
>> anything that injects special interest groups or partisan politics into the selection of people who by the nature of their job are supposed to be neutral and objective, stands to hurt the independence of the judiciary. it's one of our American traditions. having an independent judiciary that can evaluate what is done by other branches of government, that can resolve issues and disputes between parties without regard to political pressure being put on them or pressure from outside sources.

Jose Cárdenas
>> I understand some of these, quite apart from the politics, would be incredibly burdensome. such as a requirement to list all of the cases you've held a statute unconstitutional or constitutional.

Ruth McGregor
>> there is a proposal that all of our court of appeals judges who are standing for retention as part of the merit process have to list and summarize all of their cases since they last stood for retention. that would be about 1,800 cases for each judge. I don't know how big the voter information guide would have to be, but bigger than anybody would read.

Jose Cárdenas
>> we're going to end our interview on that note. chief justice, thank you so much for your years of service and thank you for being with us here on "horizon."

Ruth McGregor
>> thank you for having me.

ASU Origins Symposium

  |   Video
  • From April 3 through April 6, Arizona State University will host a conference to discuss the origins of everything from the universe to humanity. Scientific luminaries such as Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins will take part in the Origins Symposium. Lawrence Krauss, an internationally known theoretical physicist and ASU professor, will give a preview of the event.
Guests:
  • Lawrence Krauss - Theoretical physicist, author of "The Physics of 'Star Trek'," Professor, Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration
Category: Science   |   Keywords: Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss,

View Transcript
Jose Cárdenas
>> did you ever wonder how the universe started? how life began, or how consciousness arose? some of the most brilliant minds in science will provide answers to those questions and more about the origins of everything at the Arizona State University's origins symposium. it starts tomorrow, but today students at North High School in phoenix got a taste of all those big answers to everything as they heard from three noble laureates. we'll get a preview of the symposium, but first here's a bit of what the North High students heard this afternoon.

Lawrence Krauss
>> we have someone here who literally has saved millions of lives. he won the Nobel Prize for discovering the virus for hepatitis b and inventing a vaccine. [cheers and applause]

Baruch Blumberg
>> in most of the countries in the world, there are now vaccination programs that are universal. they vaccinate children when they're born or later in life, and there's been a big decrease in the amount of hepatitis b in the world.

Lawrence Krauss
>> the next Nobel prize winner, Steven Weinberg, I was actually a student in his class the day he won the Nobel prize. and he gave that class, it wasn't a great class, I think he was a little distracted. but you gave it, and --

Steven Weinberg
>> I don't think physicist were very impressed by – or scientists are very impressed by each other's Nobel prizes. we all know of people who should have gotten them and didn't, and some who shouldn't have and did. and -- but it is certainly very nice. not least of all because you get invited to occasions like this. and I get a chance to -- how else would I speak to 900 high school students in this beautiful room? [applause] so thank you.

David Gross
>> it's great to be here and to see such enthusiasm. I hope some of it is enthusiasm for science. [cheers and applause]

Jose Cárdenas
>> here to tell us about the origins symposium is Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist the author of several books on physics, including "the physics of 'star trek'." Krauss is also a professor at the Arizona State University school of earth and space exploration. professor Krauss, thank you for joining us on "horizon."

Lawrence Krauss
>> it's great to be here.

Jose Cárdenas
>> we just saw a clip of and you three Nobel laureates talking to the students at north high school. what was the goal that you were trying to achieve?

Lawrence Krauss
>> well, we were trying to reach out to kids who may never have heard what a scientist is or what they do. and inspire them. I think one of the great things about the symposium is not just that we're going to bring the best scientists here to talk to each other, but we're going to reach out to the community. the university is an amazing resource, and I think this was -- for me one of the highlights of the symposium. the fact we could see a room full of a thousand kids who were excited about science. and couldn't wait to ask questions. if we inspired some of the young people here to one day become a great scientist, it will all be worthwhile.

Jose Cárdenas
>> the popular perception is science is much more interesting in Sweden, for example, where the prizes are awarded. than it is here. do you think that's changing?

Lawrence Krauss
>> I want to work to help the change. it's changing a little bit. I have to say, all of the Nobel laureates I was with said they had never seen a high school event like this where they would have spoken to this many kids in one place. it speaks well for the program they ran at that high school, but I think we, one of the things we're doing here is not just bringing great scientist, but scientists who can attract the public. on Monday we're going to have an all-day, 12-hour public event. 3,000-seat auditorium with some of the most famous public science intellect walls. Eight Nobel laureates, a panel of six. and then in the evening Steven Hawking. it's just -- and it's already sold out. and I think that says something.

Jose Cárdenas
>> and speaking of Ira Flato of NPR, tomorrow you will be featured on science Friday.

Lawrence Krauss
>> yes. we're having a live broadcast of science Friday from the catsen auditorium where we're going to -- at a.s.u. where we're going to have the scientific symposium follow that. it will be two full hours with different selected panelists. one hour on the origin of the universe, another one on astro biology with two other scientists from a.s.u. so it's nice that we can integrate those things together. I think it's really important that science and universities are about both the generation of knowledge and also the dissemination of knowledge. that's not just in the scientific community, but in the community as whole. one of the things we talked about with the students today is that science is a vital part of almost every public policy issue you can imagine. from national security, to the environment, to energy, and fundamental questions will affect our civilization in a profound way in the long term, but also our standard of living in the short term.

Jose Cárdenas
>> how did this particular event come to be?

Lawrence Krauss
>> well, I -- it came to be because I moved to a.s.u. and working with Michael Crow and a number of other people to create this origins initiative where we will explore these questions you mentioned at the beginning of this segment. key questions at the forefront of science. and what was really exciting to me was that there was this entrepreneurial spirit at this university to try and create an interdisciplinary program that will bring scientists together from different fields. it's something I wanted to do at a private university I worked at, but I saw the chance to do here at a.s.u. to build on the strengths that exist here. I don't think -- I think the university is perhaps not as appreciated as it should be as an incredible resource. and so I came here to give a public lecture on the physics of "star trek," met with some people and within six months was recruited here to help lead this program. and for me it's very exciting.

Jose Cárdenas
>> tell us about the webcast.

Lawrence Krauss
>> there are public events, science Friday and the Monday events, but there will be scientific symposium from Friday through the weekend, which will just be for the scientists. but everything from the first broadcast to the Monday events is going to be webcast live. you can go to www.origins.asu.edu. click there and see the link. wherever you are around the world, you can watch the whole symposium. and then it's going to be archived so you can see it after the fact, and we're actually producing it and in partnership actually with your station, and also with the science network in San Diego. and it's going to be broadcast in its entirety later on. and also d.v.d.s will be made available for teachers and students.

Jose Cárdenas
>> thank you so much for joining us. good luck on the symposium.

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