by Jim Nintzel
Laura Hogan traveled all the way from Vail to Marana on the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, to let the Independent Redistricting Commission know she was "very upset" by the removal of IRC chair Colleen Mathis by Gov. Jan Brewer last week.
Republican lawmakers provided Brewer with the two-thirds supermajority necessary to dispatch Mathis.
“It was a kangaroo court,” said Hogan, who has lived in Arizona for most of her 60 years and been a Democrat for most of that time. “There weren’t even specific charges. I don’t understand it.”
Hogan’s comments at the IRC meeting got a rousing round of applause from the audience members who agreed with her—which appeared to be the majority, based on the testimony before the only IRC member in attendance, Republican Rick Stertz.
A minority of the speakers, however, were on the other side, praising Gov. Brewer for the unprecedented action of removing Mathis from her chairmanship after charging that the independent chairwoman of the commission was guilty of “gross misconduct in office” and “substantial neglect of duty.”
Many of them complained that the maps simply weren’t constitutional, echoing the claims made by Brewer and Republican lawmakers.
But when it comes to constitutionality of district maps, it doesn’t really matter what speakers at a redistricting hearing say. It doesn’t matter what the governor says, or what state lawmakers say, or what bloggers say, or what journalists say.
The only voice that matters in determining the constitutionality of district maps are the courts.
Charlton pointed out that the draft maps weren’t even finished, so any challenge to them was premature at this time. But more importantly, he said: “Once those lines are final, the way to challenge those lines is in court, not in a legislative body. That is the very reason we have an Independent Redistricting Commission, to take that authority away from the Legislature.”
Of course, Brewer doesn’t want Paul Charlton to argue those points in court. That’s why she’s had staff tell Independent Redistricting Commission Executive Director Ray Bladine that since Mathis has been removed from the commission, the state will not pay any of Charlton’s bills.
Bladine told The Range on Friday that Charlton was hired by a vote of the commission and he intends to continue to submit his bills to the state. What happens after that? Sounds like another legal fight to us.
When we spoke to him on Friday afternoon, Bladine was not sure if Charlton had filed any legal pleadings in the case yet.
But IRC attorney Mary O’Grady has filed a special action before the Arizona Supreme Court.
O’Grady’s 38-page petition—you can read a copy of it yourself at the bottom of this blog post—asks the court to rule that Mathis was illegally removed from her chairmanship.
O'Grady argues that Brewer's action should be annulled for two reasons: "(1) the Governor (with the Senate’s ratification) impermissibly usurped the legislative power of the Commission to draw congressional and legislative districts and arrogated to herself the judicial power to pass on the legality of draft, unfinished maps; and (2) the written notice and stated reasons for removal failed to meet the constitutional requirements listed in Subsection (10)."
O'Grady further writes:
There can be little doubt that the Governor’s use of the removal process to influence the outcome of the mapping process is an intentionally “coercive influence." Under her expansive theory that the removal provision gives full discretion to decide what qualifies as “substantial neglect” or “gross misconduct,” the Governor views her removal power as limited only by the number of votes her office can line up in support of removal, effectively giving the political branches a controlling sixth seat on the Commission, empowered to overrule the redistricting choices authorized by duly appointed commissioners. Neither the Governor, through her removal power, nor the Senate, through its limited power of concurrence, can declare what the law is. Such a position offends the principles of separation of powers and frustrates the purpose for which “for-cause” removal provisions exist.
We’ll find out next whether the court will weigh in on the matter this week.
Brewer struggled to explain what Mathis had done wrong on Alan Colmes radio show (listen to the entire exchange via Think Progress):
COLMES: What did Colleen do that was inappropriate, Colleen Mathis?
BREWER: Well she acted, uh, inappropriately. Well it was very, pretty much obvious that she in communications, and doing things, uh, not in the public, and the people of Arizona deserve that —
COLMES: You mean she was doing things secretly? Like what?
BREWER: They just simply need to operate in a lawful and open fashion…
COLMES: I’m trying to understand what she did. What are you accusing her of having done?
BREWER: Well she wasn’t operating in the proper manner.
Laura Hogan, like many of the citizens who turned out for the IRC meeting on Friday, finds the entire affair appalling and disgraceful.
“I can’t remember ever seeing anything like this before—and I follow politics,” Hogan said on Friday night. “Not even Nixon and his dirty tricks. Nothing compares to what Republicans did this last week in the state Legislature.”
Here's the IRC's amended petition for special action: Amended_Petition_for_Special_Action.pdf