Ariz. Senate President Russell Pearce

As I write this, Election Day is ticking away its last minutes. Among all the results, both surprises and their opposite, it’s looking very much like we won’t have Russell Pearce to kick around anymore.

As the Arizona Daily Star reported late last night:

“Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce—architect of some of the nation’s toughest state laws against illegal immigration—was ousted by voters Tuesday in an unprecedented recall.

“Results late Tuesday showed challenger Jerry Lewis, a political newcomer, with a 53-to-45 percent margin over Pearce in his east Mesa district. Both are Republicans. A small percentage also cast ballots for Olivia Cortes, although she withdrew from the race.

“Pearce conceded defeat, saying he is disappointed and will spend some time ‘with my family and my God’ before deciding what to do next. He has not ruled out another run—including to get his seat back.”

God wasn’t available for comment. But you can read the whole story here.

There were many twists and turns in this race, but at its heart, there was no more “legal” election battle this year. The Senate President may have disputed it, but SB1070 and its fellow immigration laws were all over this race.

The ouster of Russell Pearce likely pleases or dismays many Arizona lawyers, whose opinions on immigration and a great many other things are very diverse. But for me, the surprise in the race was farther down the tote board.

252 votes for Olivia Cortes.

Who? Oh, yes, that Olivia Cortes. The one caught up in allegations that she was a sham candidate whose sole purpose was to draw votes away from Jerry Lewis and therefore to help Russell Pearce.

The tale of the tape

Well, if that was the plan, it didn’t work very well. But her inclusion on the ballot still garnered some support, long after interminable news stories documented her lack of genuine commitment to public service and to this race.

Who are those 252 people, you have to wonder?

I will grant her this: Her family probably supported her with their votes. I mean, even if my mom were a sham candidate running for town council back in Poughquag, N.Y., I’d still be inclined to cast my vote her way. Sham or not, family’s family.

So let’s give Olivia the credit of 10, no, 20, hell, let’s say 50 family votes.

Given that, who are those 202 other people who voted for a woman who had formally withdrawn after having barely been in the race to start with? A woman with no positions, no record, no political accomplishments? Someone whose withdrawal opportunely came immediately before a scheduled candidate debate and a court hearing that would have put her “supporters” on record under oath?

I am inclined to search out those 200 or so voters and to ask them to leave the state. Just leave.

At the very least, those voters should be included in a list of potential jurors who are unaware of and unswayed by news stories.

Happy Election Day-after.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has just confirmed that Olivia Cortes has withdrawn from the recall election that has been called in regard to State Senate President Russell Pearce.

According to an email sent from that Office, “Mrs. Cortes will still be on the ballot, but there will be signs posted at the polls and posted on the Secretary of State’s site.”

Here is a news story about her withdrawal and some history of this race.

And here is the withdrawal form that Cortes signed:


Lawyers may not be tea-leaf-reading kind of folks, but even those famously left-brained professionals must see the signs.

Oddity is all about us, people. And that is nowhere more clear than in the signs that line our roads. Let me share.

First, the depressingly inaccurate.

We have witnessed a Mesa battle this week over signs that contain inaccurate information—but it will apparently take a court to have them removed. The recall election of Russell Pearce already occupied too much of the time of newsfolk. Now, we are confronted with signs that operate simply through misdirection.

Here’s the story.

And here is the sign making all the hubbub. (Oddly enough, the Arizona Republic didn’t include the photo with its news story. I had to head over to the Phoenix New Times, that visual bunch, to find it. You can read the NT story here.)

To counterbalance the tawdry signs of politics we see all around us, I direct you northward. There, drivers came across a (we hope) playful warning—about an escaped panda bear.

The story, not nearly as good as the photo below, is here.


Ariz. Senate President Russell Pearce

Mistakes are made in the heat of battle. And that is never more true than in lawsuits regarding pending elections (see Bush v. Gore).

That may be the most generous analysis we can make in the latest turn in the battle over a recall election for State Senate President Russell Pearce.

You may recall (get it?) that sufficient petition signatures were gathered to force a recall election of the engineer of the immigration law dubbed SB1070. But a lawsuit was filed immediately by Pearce backers to disallow the signatures, the petitions and the entire election.

Last week, an Arizona court in Maricopa County ruled against the suit, which would allow the recall to proceed. An appeal was expected.

What wasn’t expected was that the Pearce supporters filed the appeal directly to the Arizona Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Court—ever so kindly—pointed out that the appeal came to the wrong bench.

As Justice Scott Bales wrote:

“The Court has received Appellant’s Rule 8.1 Statement in Expedited Election Matter, filed August 15, 2011. Because pursuant to Rule 8.1(h), Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure (ARCAP), ‘[e]xpedited election appeals involving recalls … shall be filed in the Court of Appeals’ rather than this Court, IT IS ORDERED transferring this matter to the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One.”

Every lawyer may make an error, Justice Bales seemed to acknowledge. And so he concluded, “IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Appellant not be charged a second initial filing fee.”

Other coverage of the matter made the event seem like a technicality. As FOX10 News reported:

“The Arizona Supreme Court is sidestepping an appeal of a judge’s ruling to keep a scheduled recall election for state Sen. Russell Pearce on track, but it may be only a temporary move.”

Here is their complete story.

True, I suppose, that all court rules are “technicalities.” But those are technicalities that lawyers live with every day. It’s nice that the Court won’t levy a second fee on the plaintiff when the matter is inevitably filed in the proper court. But given the very public nature of this Court order, I suppose the lawyers involved have already paid enough.

Below you’ll find the two-page order from the Supreme Court.

Today, the Arizona State Senate considers Senate Bill 1610, which would, for the first time, establish that our state has an “official firearm.”

(And, if you were wondering, Sen. Don Shooter, R-24, is a sponsor.)

Here is more about the bill. But to save you the time, here is its complete language:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona: Section 1.  Title 41, chapter 4.1, article 5, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 41-860.02, to read:

41-860.02. State firearm


This afternoon, when the bill is debated embraced, I will be at another event, and so cannot attend.

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce

Does that disappoint me? A bit, I suppose. For this would make us only the second state that would fill this glaring “official state gun” gap. And if there’s any state that knows gaps, it’s Arizona.

But given the topic, and the fact that weapons apparently are welcome in the public building that is the Arizona Senate (a policy that appears to conflict with state law), perhaps the wiser course is to watch from afar.

To our rescue comes … technology. Sure, streaming video has none of the gleaming, alluring, clock-like precision and beauty of, say, a Glock with extended magazine. But it does allow any Arizona resident to check in on what their Legislature is doing.

As Senate President Russell Pearce says in his introduction to the website:

“State government should be open and accessible to the public. This Web site helps take the mystery out of what we do at the Senate and brings it closer to the people we serve.”

Glock: In the running for unofficial state firearm

That may be progress, but it may also be a miscalculation. After all, in the condition the state is in, leaving the Legislature shrouded in mystery may be the wisest course.

No matter. Many of us, I hope, will take advantage of watching the sausage made via video. I’m betting immigration activist Salvador Reza will be among that online audience.

Click here to see what’s up. Lock and load.

Arizona Senate President-Elect Russell Pearce

Controversy continued to build this morning over the proper role of various state players in the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Or should I say, the “Independent” Redistricting Commission. Whether quotation marks should be appended in future news stories remains to be seen.

The past week has seen the tension escalate, as state Republican leaders made known their distaste for the choices that would be forwarded their way. Publicly, they went after three nominees—two Republicans and one Independent. Read more about that here.

The public request to withdraw came from House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President-elect Russell Pearce. And the three who were “invited” to withdraw are Mark Schnepf and Steve Sossaman (Republicans) and Paul Bender (Independent).

Since that news story yesterday, we’ve learned even more.

Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams

This morning, the Arizona Supreme Court announced that two of those nominees—the Republicans—had tendered their withdrawal to the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Rebecca White Berch. Here is the letter from Mark Schnepf.

December 26, 2010

The Hon. Rebecca White Berch;

Members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments

1501 W. Washington St. Suite 221

Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Chief Justice Berch and Members of the Commission:

This letter is in regards to my application to serve on the Independent Redistricting Commission.  I have received and reviewed email copies of the letters written by Speaker Adams, President-Elect Pearce and Paul Bender.

I disagree with the Speaker and the President-Elect regarding my qualifications to serve on the IRC.  As I understand the definition of “public office” as explained by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments I don’t believe that service on the New Magma Irrigation Board disqualifies me to serve on the IRC.

However, since the Speaker and President-Elect appoint the two Republican members and since I am one of the Republican nominees and they both oppose my application, it seems futile to remain a candidate.   I am respectfully withdrawing my application to serve on the IRC.

Thank you for the time and effort you are spending on this selection process.  Please accept my appreciation for your consideration and support of my application.   


Mark Schnepf

So Schnepf did not reassess the facts and the law and conclude that the Republican leadership was right. He looked at the political landscape, counted votes, and saw that the jig was up.

What part of “keeping politics out of the process” does this serve?

ASU Law Professor Paul Bender, Dec. 2, 2010, speaking at an event honoring the Arizona Constitution Centennial

The Arizona Republic ran an editorial this morning titled “Keep politics out as Arizona draws new voting lines.” It urged the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments (which drafts the list of nominees for the Independent Redistricting Commission) to maintain its independence:

“You have the deep responsibility to Arizonans to maintain your independence and objectivity. In appearance as well as action. Normally, your commission deals with judicial appointments, which are far less fraught.”

“Now, the political heat is intense. And you must assert your independence.”

The complete editorial is here. You know it’s an important issue when it gets its own editorial (and when the Republic is breathless enough to use a sentence fragment).

Some may believe that this is a controversy that only nerds and wonks could love. Others may roll their eyes and say that everything about redistricting is political, so what is everyone complaining about?

But redistricting—while not forever—is for a long time. And the legislators who have the power to “urge” withdrawals today may be unhappy in 10 years, or 20, when their political opponents wield the same persuasive big stick.

Of course, that would be taking the long view, an unlikely outcome in a short-sighted state.

The Commission meets tomorrow. Let’s hope we can keep the quotation  marks out of Independent.

Protestors outside the State Bar of Arizona, August 9, 2010

On Monday afternoon, the State Bar of Arizona was the focus of a small gathering of protestors supportive of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

The eight people, holding signs and a flag, stood outside the southwest corner of the Bar offices. As traffic streamed by on 24th Street in Phoenix, one protestor broadcast her endorsement of Thomas via bullhorn.

Other protestors held signs supporting County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Another held a sign touting the name “Russ,” likely shorthand for State Senator Russell Pearce, prime supporter of the SB1070 immigration legislation. One man wore a sombrero and stood next to a sign reading “Latina Legal Immigrant Tea Party Patriots Defending Our America U.S.A.”

Andrew Thomas is under investigation for a number of ethics complaints originally filed with the State Bar. In the past year, the Bar sought to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest by asking the Arizona Supreme Court to designate another investigator and prosecutor of the charges. The Court agreed and named John Gleason, a Colorado lawyer and chief of the Colorado Bar’s lawyer discipline unit.

The protestors appeared outside the Bar at about 3:00 p.m. Rick DeBruhl, the Bar’s Chief Communications Officer, spoke with them at length. He said that he explained the status of the matter, and that the State Bar no longer is the investigating body on the Thomas cases. He said that the protestors opted to continue protesting.

At one point, a bicyclist riding southbound on the sidewalk toward the protestors was forced into the roadway by one of the sign-holders, who extended his placard streetward in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to drive the rider off the curb. The bicycle rider was able to regain the sidewalk after passing the protestors, but not before oncoming cars had to brake in order to avoid a collision.

At 4:20 p.m., the protestors disbanded and walked south.

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