by Jim Nintzel
The Arizona Supreme Court has decided against an emergency stay that would allow Colleen Mathis to remain on the Independent Redistricting Commission, but the case will move forward, with a flurry of legal filings over the next week and oral arguments before the court on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The court also ruled against allowing the Democrats on the commission, Linda McNulty and José Herrera, from intervening in the case, although it said it would treat their pleadings as amicus briefs. The court ruled that Mathis could intervene as a petitioner.
Stuart Robinson, spokesman for the IRC, says: “We will work with the vice chairmen to see how the commission should proceed while the Arizona Supreme Court resolves the important legal issues in dispute. In the meantime, we will continue processing the tremendous amount of input the commission received during the public comment period.”
Earlier today, Mathis' attorney, Thomas Zlaket, delivered a blistering legal argument that starts with this:
As demonstrated in previous pleadings, this is a remarkable case involving the shocking abuse of raw political power to frustrate the will of Arizona’s voters, while recklessly smearing the good name and reputation of honest, hard-working citizen volunteers holding unpaid constitutional offices.
The opponents claim that there is no possibility of irreparable harm if a stay is denied. Their callousness obviously knows no bounds. Every day out of office is a matter of irreparable harm to Colleen Mathis, a solid citizen who has been publicly accused and apparently found “guilty” (without a semblance of due process) of “substantial neglect of duty” and “gross misconduct in office.” Only a judicial stay will serve to remove the tar and feathers from this good woman until the Court has a chance to review the process by which she came to grief.
And even more:
The Governor and State Senate would have this Court believe that there is little or no likelihood of success attached to the Mathis petition for relief. That assertion defies all reasoned analysis, and challenges the faith of Arizona voters in a courageous and benevolent judicial system that gives meaning and effect to their hard-fought and won constitutional protections. For what it may be worth, in more than 46 years at the Bar, the undersigned has never witnessed a more blatant attempt to tamper with and directly intimidate constitutional officers in their independent work. This case involves the ultimate political “dirty trick.”
The facts clearly demonstrate not only a lack of proof; not only a lack of due process; not only an arbitrary and capricious abuse of power on the part of the Governor; but the complete absence of any deliberative process in the State Senate, where the charade of “confirmation” was orchestrated and concluded in the matter of a few short hours on the same day as the order of removal, without providing Commissioner Mathis any reasonable notice, much less an opportunity to be heard. In short, the likelihood of her success in this Court should be considered overwhelming.
The Respondents do not even attempt to justify their actions. Relying on a narrow reading of Mecham v. Gordon, 156 Ariz. 297, 751 P.2d 957 (1988) and a distorted application of that case to the facts here, they claim there was no need for a bill of particulars, no need for a list of charges, no need for adequate notice or time to respond, no need for a hearing of any kind, and an unfettered right to interpret the constitutional terms “substantial neglect of duty” and “gross misconduct in office” in any way they might choose. There is no precedent for such an undisciplined approach in our jurisprudence. In Mecham, supra, the Constitution provided specific rules and requirements that were admittedly followed. Here, there is no doubt that even the minimal constitutional requirements of Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1 (10) were either ignored, or bastardized beyond recognition by partisan political interpretation.
Finally, the fundamental public policy of this nation and state, as articulated in the Constitutions of both the United States and Arizona, clearly favors the Petitioners. It is folly to suggest that the political branches of our government — who openly hate the idea of a truly independent citizen’s redistricting commission — should have the unfettered ability to frustrate commission members on the whimsical and unsupported interpretation of the chief executive, subsequently “rubber- stamped” in summary fashion by a single house of the legislature. Such a holding would effectively kill or badly cripple the work of the independent commission, rendering the constitutional provision moot. Such a result that can only be averted by judicial review.
Steve Muratore has more details on the legal twists at the Arizona Eagletarian.