Update to Scandal: Governor Ducey rigged the system to appoint Bill Montgomery to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Arizona Daily Star’s Tim Steller addressed this scandal, and added an important point that I left out of my earlier post. Ducey degrades once-proud Arizona judicial institutions (excerpt):

Last week Ducey completed his heist of Arizona’s judiciary by appointing Montgomery, the Maricopa County attorney, to the seat opened up by the retirement of Chief Justice Scott Bales.

In doing so, he turned the court and the system for picking justices from intentionally apolitical and admired into partisan institutions likely to serve the governor’s political purposes.

The court itself has virtually become the judicial arm of the Arizona Republican Party, fortified to forestall Democratic political advances in the state.

Note: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in an op-ed laments the same thing about Mitch McConnell’s court-packing scheme at the federal level. The Supreme Court has become just another arm of the GOP:

From 2005 through the fall term of 2018, the Roberts court issued 73 5-to-4 partisan decisions benefiting big Republican donor interests.

[I]n its run of 73 partisan 5-to-4 cases, the Republican majority routinely broke traditionally conservative legal principles, such as respect for precedent or “originalist” reading of the Constitution. They even went on remarkable fact-finding expeditions, violating traditions of appellate adjudication.

The big-donor takeover of the federal courts begins, as reported by The Post, with a sprawling network of organizations funded by at least a quarter-billion dollars of largely anonymous money, and spearheaded by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo.

With its judges in place, the network lobbies the court with anonymously funded amicus briefs, signaling how the judges should vote.

Republicans and their big donors now see the court as part of their team. They can achieve political gains there that they cannot win in Congress. The supposedly apolitical nature of the court partly protects these political gains from critique. And after 73 partisan victories, they’ve had a hell of a run.

But the makeup of the court is only part of the story. The other part [of this scandal] is the makeup and performance of the little-known body that gives the governor a list of candidates to choose from: the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.

Voters approved this merit system for selecting judges in November 1974, replacing the election of judges with panels who choose finalists picked from by the governor.

It took judges out of the dirty business of campaigning and allowed an independent, multi-partisan group to select the best candidates.

* * *

The constitutional provision passed in 1974 says “The makeup of the committee shall, to the extent feasible, reflect the diversity of the population of the state” and it lays out restrictions on the number of attorneys, non-attorneys and people from any given county or party.

Until now, governors have taken that requirement to mean they should have a mix of party members, among other demographic categories.

But as it is now, under Ducey, the commission has no Democrats. Not one, although they make up 31% of Arizona voters.

The commission has seven Republicans, five independents and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, also a Republican, with three seats unfilled.

* * *

The issue is not just the courts. The same commission that vets Supreme Court applicants also chooses the members of the Independent Redistricting Commission, which decides the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

The individual membership of that five-member body (two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent are required) can dictate the partisan makeup of the Legislature and congressional delegation.

So by manipulating the membership of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, Ducey is potentially protecting Republican seats and policy priorities through redistricting, as well as court decisions.

Governor Ducey is playing the long game to rig the system in favor of a minority political party to thwart the prospect of Democratic control of state government in the coming years. The fight over redistricting after the 2020 Census has already begun.

The best way to thwart Gov. Ducey’s corrupt plan is a massive Republican defeat in next year’s election. Defeat. Every. Republican. The survival of our democracy depends on it.

And as to Governor Ducey’s court-packing scheme, Tim Steller has the right suggestion:

There’s nothing much we can do about it, but the Supreme Court justices must stand for retention elections two years after being appointed, then every six years after that. I intend to vote “no” in 2020.

And vote “no” in every election after that until every Ducey appointment to the courts in Arizona has been purged from the bench.