Sunday, January 16, 2011

Redistricting update: AZ Supreme Court Hearing On Tuesday

As most observers of AZ's political scene already know, there has already been a lawsuit filed over redistricting even though the redistricting commission has yet to be formed, much less do any of its work.

The Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments waded through the applications of 79 people interested in being a part of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) and forwarded a list of 25 applicants, 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and 5 Independents, to the leadership of the legislature.

There, the leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses of each chamber will select one member of the AIRC, and the four members thus selected will select a fifth member from the list of Independents to serve as the chair of the AIRC.

Russell Pearce and Kirk Adams, President of the Arizona State Senate and Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, weren't pleased with the list of candidates, and filed suit to force the Appellate Court Appointments commission to reopen nominations for the AIRC.  They want some candidates more to their liking and they want to knock off one of the Independent candidates, Professor Paul Bender.

Their stated objection to Bender is that he has served as a judge for a couple of tribal nation courts, and the law that creates the AIRC specifically excludes anyone who has held public office in Arizona within the previous three years from serving on the AIRC.

Pearce and Adams argue that Bender's work for a tribal court renders him ineligible for the AIRC and his name should be removed from consideration.

It seems more likely they object both to Bender's political opinions (he's done work for the ACLU!  Horrors!) and the unlikelihood of their being able to persuade/intimidate him in the event he is selected to chair the AIRC.

Due to the immediate nature of the work of the AIRC and the need to resolve the lawsuit quickly, the Arizona Supreme Court set an expedited date to hear arguments.

The case is set for a hearing on Tuesday at 2 p.m in the State Courts Building, 1501 W. Washington in Phoenix.

Three groups have filed "amicus curiae," or "friend of the court" briefs with the Court, weighing in on the matter.

Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney has weighed in on the case, supporting the request of Pearce and Adams.  Her filing focused on both Bender's activities with the tribal courts and a perceived lack of geographical diversity on the part of the applicants whose names were forwarded to the legislative leadership (nine out of the 10 Rs in the pool are from Maricopa County).

Republican Congressmen Trent Franks, Ben Quayle, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, and Jeff Flake also weighed in on the side of Pearce and Adams, focusing on eligibility issues.  They argue that public service *anywhere*, even in a non-Arizona office, disqualifies someone from membership on the AIRC.

Lattie Coor (retired ASU president), Paul Johnson (former Mayor of Phoenix), the Valley Citizens League, and the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise filed a brief in support of Professor Bender.  They argue that holding a tribal office doesn't qualify as a public office in Arizona because the State of Arizona has no say in how such an office is filled by the tribe in question.

Mary O'Grady, Solicitor General for the State of Arizona, responded on behalf of the Arizona Attorney General.  In her response to the Pearce/Adams suit, she argued that all 25 members of the applicant pool are eligible to serve on the AIRC.  In addition, the response argued that the underlying suit was premature and shouldn't have been filed until the applicants that Pearce and Adams feel are unqualified are actually appointed to the AIRC.

All of the filings with the court cite scads of precedents in support of their arguments, and not being a lawyer, I truly have no idea who has presented the strongest legal arguments.

Guess we'll find out Tuesday.


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