A voter speaks ... and urges an indiscriminate no vote on all judges.

A voter speaks … and urges an indiscriminate no vote on all judges.

Much effort has been expended by many folks—including the State Bar of Arizona—to get voters in state elections to “finish the ballot.” The notion is that many people care deeply about the “top races,” but fatigue sets in as they move down their ballot and reach the judges.

I wrote about the issue here.

So what an unpleasant surprise this weekend to see a bumper-sticker in Phoenix that urged voters to do the same—but not in an informed way. Instead, the placard (depicted above) recommends that everyone vote no on all the judges all the time.

Always Vote No On Judges: It only gets worse close up.

Always Vote No On Judges: It only gets worse close up.

Somehow, I don’t think the indiscriminate and uneducated wielding of the no vote is what our nation’s founders had in mind. But that’s what we face, more and more.

Have a good week.

Denis Fitzgibbons is the new Pinal County representative on the State Bar Board of Governors, May 2015.

Denis Fitzgibbons is the new Pinal County representative on the State Bar Board of Governors, May 2015.

I previously told you about a unique election occurring for the Pinal County representative on the State Bar Board. Today, I share the result.

After one candidate used his campaign space to tout the abilities of his opponent, the conclusion is probably no surprise.

Besides announcing that Denis M. Fitzgibbons has been elected as a Bar Governor, the Bar also shared the name of the new Young Lawyers Division representative: Tyler Carrell.

Tyler Carrell, YLD representative to the State Bar of Arizona, May 2015.

Tyler Carrell, YLD representative to the State Bar of Arizona, May 2015.

You can read the Bar’s complete release here.

Congratulations to both attorneys.

You think elections have gotten personal? In Arizona, one candidate wields the wooden stake. (Happy Halloween!)

You think elections have gotten personal? In Arizona, one candidate wields the wooden stake. (Happy Halloween!)

Today is the Change of Venue Friday that precedes Election Day. And it’s also Halloween. So I am going to take a few scary risks: (1) This post could sway a major Arizona election, and (2) After reading this, your Halloween—and government—may be even more frightening than you had expected.

AZ Mine Inspector logo

The state race I’m discussing drills down to the core of who we are as residents of a Western state. Of course, I refer to the Arizona Mine Inspector race.

I must declare a conflict right away, as our own 18-year-old daughter has declared her own intent—just to her family and a few friends—of being a write-in candidate for this very race. With no actual mining experience or education, I do not expect her to prevail. #prouddad. But duly disclosed.

The pitched battle for Mine Inspector is being waged to unseat incumbent Joe Hart, who has been in the position since 2007. Here is some background on Hart from the official state page. And if that’s not enough, here is a Wikipedia page about him. (Yes, there is a Wikipedia page for Arizona’s Mine Inspector; if you don’t have your own page yet, you’re clearly not trying very hard.)

But what has been a sleepy and relatively uncontested race has been changed this year by a write-in candidate committed to … ridding Arizona’s mines of vampires.

Ian Kobe is the fellow’s name, and his campaign may make you chuckle and creep you out all at the same time. You can see more about his wooden stake-based campaign on his Facebook page.

Here are a few images/status posts from his page:


Ian Kobe State Mine Inspector 2

Ian Kobe State Mine Inspector 3 Facebook post

Ian Kobe State Mine Inspector 1 skull and crossbonesI must add that I’ve been surprised at the small (or no) coverage given to this unique approach to mine safety (which, let’s admit, is a pretty good fake and comic campaign). But it seems that Kobe has cornered the market on Dracula-free tunnels.

Have a great—and oh-so-frightening—weekend.

State Bar of Arizona Officers, 2014-15: (L to R): Alex Vakula, Bryan Chambers, Richard Platt, Lisa Loo, Geoffrey Trachtenberg

State Bar of Arizona Officers, 2014-15: (L to R): Alex Vakula, Bryan Chambers, Richard Platt, Lisa Loo, Geoffrey Trachtenberg

At its regular annual meeting at the State Bar Convention this afternoon, the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors confirmed its slate of officers for the coming year. The new roster includes the newest officer, Secretary/Treasurer Geoffrey Trachtenberg, elected today:

  • President: Richard T. Platt
  • President-Elect: Bryan B. Chambers
  • First Vice President: Lisa Loo
  • Second Vice President: Alex Vakula
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Geoffrey Trachtenberg

Following board bylaws, the new slate of officers assume their positions at the close of the annual meeting.

Follow more news via this Convention Daily and on Twitter, hashtag #azbarcon

The new Board of the State Bar of Arizona, June 10, 2014, Westin La Paloma, Tucson

The new Board of the State Bar of Arizona, June 10, 2014, Westin La Paloma, Tucson

State Bar of AZ newsboy election results

Late Friday, results were announced from what had to be one of the most-contested elections of the State Bar board in decades. Fueling the interest was a recent dues increase passed by the board (more information is here).

To read the complete results of the election, go here (as the Bar says, the results still must be certified by the board at its June 10 meeting).

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorAnd this all caused me to wonder:

  • Did you find yourself more engaged than in the past with a board election? If so, why? (or why not)
  • Do the past year’s events (including the election results) lead you to want to be more engaged, less engaged, or about as engaged as you’ve always been?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

legislative maps arizona

Like to draw? Get along well with others? Apply by June 10.

Looking for a unique opportunity to influence public policy in a state you care about?

On this Change of Venue Friday, I point you toward the fact that a new Redistricting Commissioner is being sought. There are a variety of qualifications to meet, and your deadline is Monday, June 10.

Below, I have included the language describing the position and including a link to the application.

If you read the newspaper, you know that the job is not without its, um, challenges, shall we say. The opening was created by the resignation of the Vice Chair. You could read more about that here.

Still interested, aren’t you? That’s what I like about attorneys: the dogged commitment to effective public policy!

Here’s the detail. Have a great weekend.

“Applications are currently being accepted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments for a vacancy on the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is charged with mapping Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts. This vacancy was created by the resignation of Commission Vice Chair Jose M. Herrera.”

“Residents of all Arizona counties are eligible to apply. To be eligible, applicants must be registered Arizona voters who have been continuously registered with the Democratic Party for the last three years. People who have held or run for a public office (other than a school board), served as an officer of a political party or a candidate’s campaign committee, or worked as a registered paid lobbyist during the past three years are not eligible.”

Application forms are available here, by calling (602) 452-3311, or at 1501 W. Washington, Suite 221, Phoenix, AZ.”

“Applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on June 10, 2013.”

“Redistricting Commission members are barred from seeking or holding any public office in Arizona or for registration as a paid lobbyist during their term on the commission and for three years following.”

“The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will review the applications and nominate a pool of three candidates. Representative Chad Campbell, Minority Leader in the Arizona House of Representatives, will appoint the new member of the Redistricting Commission.”

AZ Supreme Court logoI began an earlier draft of this blog post with the encouraging message: We all should go to judicial investitures. That followed on the heels of two great judge swearings-in—for Court of Appeals Judges Randall Howe and Sam Thumma. For my time and money, there may be no events that provide more insight into what makes judges tick than those events. And I believe that is true for all attendees, whether they are a lawyer or not.

But then I read a news story this week that reminded me it will take more than a heartfelt gathering to remind Arizonans that we have a terrific judiciary (perhaps the finest in the country). Being cynical and all, I’m not convinced we voters are up to the task of understanding and preserving what we’ve got. But I’m hoping I can be proven wrong.

The news story was penned by longtime reporter Howard Fischer, of Capitol Media Services, and it’s titled “Groups Campaign To Oust Supreme Court Judge.”

Right off the bat, let me assure you I’m not urging a vote one way or another on the Justice’s retention. That is between you and whatever data you have available. This post is about the data.

Anyway, as Howie describes it:

“A loosely organized effort to oust a state Supreme Court justice is forcing him to consider an unprecedented campaign to keep his post. … The anger is focused on [Justice John] Pelander because the Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that Proposition 121 can be on the ballot. That measure, if approved, would amend the state Constitution to create an open primary system where all candidates run against each other regardless of party affiliation, with the top two advancing to the general election.”

Hon. John Pelander

Hon. John Pelander

Again, you should vote in the retention election however you’d like. But this whole dustup is about … Prop 121?

Really? REALLY?

For a treatment of the subject that is far more compelling and eloquent than my two-word screed, you should read Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch’s commentary in the Arizona Republic from this past Monday. She also is careful not to urge any particular vote, but she does point us all to some sources of actual data that might inform our ballot choice: The Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review, and the Arizona General Election Guide, which is mailed to each registered voter.

As always, the Chief is judicious (part of the job title, I think). But the op-ed does reveal some raised hackles:

“[U]nfortunately, in this age of social media, blogs and e-mail, anyone can post anything concerning a judge without regard to accuracy. Judges may be unfairly portrayed or information about rulings may be misrepresented by people who have an agenda or have simply misunderstood an opinion.”

That takes us back to Howie’s article, which you can read here.

So let’s examine that “Top 2” primary issue, which is ostensibly the sole source of upset against a Supreme Court Justice. You may recall that it was just back on September 6 that the Court ruled that the item could be on the ballot.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

I would urge the following for anyone “on the fence” due to this ruling: As the Chief says, review the data at the website of the Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review, and read your own voter pamphlet.

And then, go the extra step: Read the ruling itself.

I’m confident that my lawyer–readers will not moan about having to read a 6-page ruling. But if you have non-lawyer colleagues who ask about this issue, urge them to read it, too.

I can suggest that for one big reason: It’s well written (by Justice Bales, the order’s author), which means it is accessible to many, not merely to lawyers.

I also can suggest it because reading the actual ruling will remind us all that the Court (and Justice Pelander) did not affirm or deny the merit of Prop 121; it handled the election question—judiciously—as it does with countless other ballot-measure cases, year after year.

As a voter service, I’ve posted the ruling here. But because I have no interest in creating a firestorm of partisan claims, I’ve also posted the appellant and appellee briefs. I suppose if you want the full picture, you may want to read those too. But do start with that ruling.

That’s in the short term. But in the long term, one wonders what kind of Pandora’s box has been opened. We need only look to Texas, or Iowa, or numerous other states to see the insertion of political pressure into judicial retention elections. In those places, justices may sit stonily and ethically silent amid an onslaught of public critique. But the result may be the ouster of good people, along with a further coarsening of the discourse.

Many, many people in Arizona (including a majority of the voting public) support Arizona’s current system of merit selection for certain judges and justices. But even if that system is retained going forward, how will it be altered if groups—“loosely organized” or not—mobilize to transform retention elections into a shouting match? How many people will be interested in the job of judge when the quality of their work is assessed not on the swath of legal output that fills volumes like sea foam covers a beach? Instead, it could be upended by a single, particular ruling in which you’ve joined, a ruling that grabs the popular imagination for misunderstood reasons—a single seashell on a vast coral reef.

Arizona, at a turning point.


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