The GOP culture of corruption in Arizona grows worse every day.
The purchase of the Arizona Supreme Court that was being negotiated with Chief Justice Scott Bales has now turned into outright “blackmail”: the courts get additional funding only if Governor “Il Duce” gets to pack the Arizona Supreme Court with two new justices. This is a hostile takeover of the third branch of government, the supposedly “independent” judiciary.
The Arizona Republic reports, Legislators dangle money for courts ‘like blackmail’:
The state budget being debated by the Legislature would take $6 million from court accounts and provide more money only if a bill adding two justices to the Arizona Supreme Court passes.
[T]he courts get the additional dollars only if the Republican-controlled Legislature approves the Supreme Court expansion to seven justices from five. Ducey would have the final say on the appointment of those justices.
“It’s like blackmail,” said Democratic Sen. Katie Hobbs, of Phoenix. “There’s absolutely no caseload reason to add Supreme Court judges, the only reason to do it is so the governor can stack the Supreme Court with his picks.”
Republican Rep. J.D. Mesnard, of Chandler, cited population growth and the volume of legal cases for House Bill 2537, which would increase the size of the Supreme Court. The state last added justices in 1960.
“My bill should not be attached to those issues,” he told The Arizona Republic. “I don’t want them to be connected — at least not directly connected.”He said Thursday that he opposes tying probation-growth funds to the court expansion.
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The proposed sweeps of court funds would reduce money to resolve cases before they go to trial, pay jurors assigned to long trials, as well as to fund substance-abuse treatment for people on probation. The sweeps would also make cuts to a sex-offender program, drug-related treatment program, and court-appointed advocates for abused and neglected children.
The proposed sweeps come as the number of children in foster care continues to grow and as the state’s probation caseload is on the rise; court officials are anticipating 5 percent growth each year.
Jerry Landau, director of government affairs for the Arizona Supreme Court, declined to speculate about motivations for the budget sweeps and contingency funding. He said court officials are attempting to “decouple” the probation sweep and expansion bill.
“Our message (to lawmakers) is: The probation funding is separate from the expansion,” he said. “We are at 102 percent of capacity (with the probation program), and there’s no room at the inn. We need the ability to hire additional officers to appropriately and properly supervise probationers. There’s no reason at all … to tie it to a Supreme Court expansion.”
Republican Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, of Phoenix, said she is disturbed by the proposed cuts to the foster-care advocate program. She and other lawmakers were under the impression sweeps to that program would not be repeated after last year’s sweeps.
Given the growth of the number of children living outside their parents’ homes, she said it is “critical” that money not be used for other purposes.
“This is a concern because of the vulnerable populations that are impacted,” she said. “Court Appointed Special Advocates along with the Foster Care Review Board are two outstanding examples of entities within the child-safety system that work beautifully. They are very strained and very taxed with the number of kids in the system, and because of that, the last thing we should be doing is reducing (their) resources.”
See previous posts on this topic. The GOP war on the independence of the judiciary – court packing scheme in Arizona, and (Update) Court packing scheme in Arizona.
This is how our authoritarian Tea-Publicans operate. It is creeping fascism.
UPDATE: The Republic’s E.J. Montini asks the right question. Why won’t spineless Supreme Court stand up to Gov. Ducey?:
“It’s like blackmail,” said Democratic Sen. Katie Hobbs, of Phoenix.
It’s not like blackmail.
It is blackmail.
And the fact that the justices themselves aren’t out there saying so is pathetic.