Bill Montgomery still not qualified for Arizona Supreme Court
! By: Guest Opinion ” August 16, 2019
Gov. Doug Ducey now faces a moment of truth that will have a major impact on his political leg A moment that will tell us whether he believes in the appointment of judges based on merit as required by the Arizona Constitution. A moment that tells us whether he believes in a Supreme Court that is diverse and nonpartisan.
It was reported in the media that Ducey supported expansion of the Supreme Court from five t seven members so he could add appointees who would add diversity to the court and presum share his views. The governor appointed two well-qualified men to fill the additional seats.
However, it was more recently reported in the media that the governor added four new members to the Commission on Appellate Appointmen (two Republicans and two independents, one who was a former Republi
precinct committee person) so that he could make certain that County Attorney Bill Montgome one of the applicants for the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, would be on the list sent t him by the commission. This, despite the fact that Montgomery was soundly rejected by the commission four months ago.
In an op-ed article last month, I joined 20 past State Bar of Arizona presidents and called the governor’s attention to the fact that the Constitution requires the Nominating Commission and court to be diverse and nonpartisan and that the overriding consideration in appointments to our courts must be merit. The views of commissioners reported in the media following Montgomery’s first appearance before the commission indicate that he was regarded as one o least qualified of those seeking an appointment to the Supreme Court. Significantly, nothing in Montgomery’s record changed between his first appearance and his appearance before the commission last week.
Despite this history, Montgomery was nonetheless included on the list sent to the governor. T only change between Montgomery’s first and second appearance was in the political compositi of the commission – all of the governor’s recent appointees voted to include Montgomery on t list sent to the governor.
Arizona has a judiciary recognized nationally for its excellence. As the result of the merit selecti system, Arizona has been spared the unseemly partisan elections fueled by millions of dollars special interest money. If the governor wants his legacy to reflect his commitment to merit
selection and to an impartial, nonpartisan judiciary, he will appoint one of the several highly qualified candidates on the list sent to him – one without Montgomery’s political baggage and of appellate experience.
Mark I. Harrison is an attorney with Osborn Maledon in Phoenix.