Friday, January 21, 2011

Redistricting Update: Two Republican replacement nominees selected

The Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments selected Republicans Crystal Russell and Richard Stertz to replace two other Republicans who had been found ineligible for membership on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC).

The Commission, per its legal duties, had forwarded the names or 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and 5 Independent applicants to the AIRC.  From that list, the leader of each caucus in each chamber will select one person to serve on the AIRC.  The four members so selected will then choose a fifth member from the list of Independents to act as chair of the AIRC (there are other possible variations based on the possiblity that one of the legislators could select someone not of their own party, but most observers consider that to be unlikely).

House Speaker Kirk Adams (R) and Senate President Russell Pearce (R) filed suit over the original list, claiming that three of the 25 names weren't eligible because they held public office.  Republicans Stephen Sossaman and Mark Schnepf were/are on irrigation district governing boards and Independent Paul Bender has served as a judge on a couple of tribal courts.  Many observers felt that Sossaman and Schnepf were "thrown under the bus" in order to mask the partisan nature of the attack on Bender's qualifications.  Bender is a law professor at ASU and a noted progressive.  He's also widely considered, even by his detractors, to be brilliant.

The Supreme Court agreed with Pearce and Adams regarding Sossaman and Schnepf, but found that Bender's offices with the courts of sovereign tribal nations didn't qualify as "public offices" under Arizona law.

The meeting went along pretty efficiently.  After some brief opening remarks, they immediately and unanimously decided to consider only the five applicants who were interviewed by the Commission but hadn't made it on to the original list of names sent to the leadership of the legislature.

There was concern expressed over the lack of geographic diversity among the nominees, and while the members of the Commission felt that they didn't do anything improper with the formation of the original list, the issue of geographic diversity was clearly on their minds as they proceeded.

After a motion to nominate Russell and Christopher Gleason as the two replacements, the Commission briefly went into executive session to discuss some legal advice.

After that session, the motion was amended to separate the nominations.

Russell was approved unanimously.  After discussion over the nature of some of Gleason's political ties, he was nominated.  His nomination failed by a 4 - 8 vote.

After that vote, Jeffrey Miller was nominated.  His nomination failed, also by a 4 - 8 vote.

The next name considered was Stertz, and his nomination passed by an 11 - 1 vote.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch thanked the Commission members for gathering together on such short notice and adjourned the meeting, less than an hour after it began.

Now, let the four-way chess match begin, and a chess match it will be because each selection by a leader of the legislature will constrain the selections that follow.


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