Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, March 25, 2013

Redistricting -- Recap of Trial Day One

Disclaimers first: I'm not a betting man and I'm not a lawyer. Therefore, I do not have experience on which to prognosticate with any degree of certainty on what the ultimate outcome will be in the federal court redistricting trial. Wes Harris and his merry band of misfits (fellow plaintiffs) hope to get the three-judge panel to declare the map used for the 2012 election for members of the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives unconstitutional.

What I can say is that the Associated Press reported today (along with a general story about what took place) that:

The plaintiffs allege that Dennis “D.J.” Quinlan, at the time the election director of the Democratic Party in Arizona, exchanged map files and e-mails with the two Democratic members of the commission, Linda McNulty and Jose Herrera, that showed they were looking at where incumbent legislators lived in particular districts.
Quinlan, who is scheduled to testify at the trial, also received from McNulty login information for the computer system of the mapping consultant the commission used. McNulty provided the consultant with a thumb drive that contained significant change to two districts, the Republican plaintiffs said.
The commission said Quinlan’s involvement with redistricting has been publicly known and that, even if Quinlan was involved in preparing possible changes on the thumb drive, no changes were made to the map unless it was considered by the commission, according to a March 12 court filing. (emphasis added)
After all the other journalists had left for the day (deadlines, I suppose), the court heard a plaintiffs' (Harris and friends) motion for sanctions against AIRC counsel. A Cantelme associate attorney named Samuel Sacks argued that Quinlan MUST have been up to no good when he logged into a Strategic Telemetry computer in November 2011. Sacks' claim was all innuendo and inference of wrongdoing based on just released (Saturday, March 23) phone and computer records for Quinlan as well as phone records related to Commissioners Linda McNulty and Jose Herrera.

The bottom line, however, is that the motion for sanctions was denied outright, with Judges Silver and Wake (and maybe also Clifton) expressing an indignant "SO WHAT" (their words). None of them believed that any nefarious consideration of incumbent lawmakers' addresses took place.

This also leads me to speculate about the reason an AIRC request to compel John Mills to testify (because he is known to have done at least as much as plaintiffs allege Quinlan did) had been denied. The judges apparently did not see any relevance to Mills potential testimony and based on what they heard today from Sacks, they seem to think Quinlan's testimony will not add much to the proceedings.

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First thing this morning, David Cantelme presented his opening argument. In that argument no new ground was broken and all of what he alleged has been reported on this blog ad nauseum already. The bottom line is that Cantelme has spent the better part of the last two years focused on setting up this lawsuit. If you've been following, you already know what I mean by setting it up.

He has testified on the record. He has written letters to the commission. He has engaged in one-on-one schmoozing (others, including some who are or may be related to members or staff of the AIRC). And he has resorted to lame attempts to intimidate (me). All of it came to a head today when he spent more than four hours litigating. In addition to opening argument, he questioned Commissioner Rick Stertz, the first commissioner to take the stand.

I took some notes about points I think were salient, but will get into more detail about those when I write again (probably) tomorrow. I don't plan to attend the trial tomorrow. Cantelme indicated early on today that he had intended to examine Stertz as well as the plaintiffs' expert witness before the end of the day. He didn't get that far. I should also mention that this afternoon Cantelme appeared to not be able to get his witness (Stertz) to answer questions you would think he would have discussed with Stertz in preparing for trial. To me, this signaled a substantive disconnect on Cantelme's part.

Cantelme (also in his opening argument) said he had heard rumors that his case was collapsing already and that he wanted to assure the judges that is not the case. I have to wonder, though, if he has to say that (or even has time to say that) in his opening argument, how strong can his case really be?

If you follow the Arizona Eagletarian on twitter, you may have seen that I mentioned Cantelme's snail's pace this afternoon. He finally did wrap up his questioning of Stertz but that only left time for defendants' counsel to cross examine the witness.

Again, a disclaimer -- I cannot tell what is going on inside the heads of the three judges. But my observation of the contrast between Cantelme's performance and the cross examination conducted by former Maricopa County Presiding Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell can best be characterized by saying that Cantelme got his ass handed to him on a platter.

To say that Campbell was... well, I should contain my enthusiasm because the trial is less than twenty percent complete.

Cantelme, in opening this morning, did say that he plans to call Willie Desmond, the chief mapmaker for Strategic Telemetry's engagement in this redistricting as well as current interim executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, DJ Quinlan and Commissioner Herrera to testify tomorrow. I have to wonder how far he'll get since he hasn't even started questioning his expert witness yet.

My overall impression today, despite the still early stage of the trial, is that if GOP leadership in the Arizona Legislature want to grouse about how much money they have to spend on attorney fees for the AIRC, they would do well to focus their consternation on David Cantelme. Because unless something happens to change the course, he's going to be the fall guy in a major way.

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Many of my friends already know that I'm thinking in terms of trying to get into law school. I don't know if I'll make it, but I will try. There are a number of obstacles that must be overcome, including taking the Law School Admission Test and figuring out how I could pay for a law school education. In preparation, I'm reading. Actually mostly reading, other than when I write. Cutting down on television and reading some more.

An intriguing book providing lots of insight, Law School Undercover by Professor "X," describes the life and career (among other things) of lawyers.
In the real world of the lawyer, a typical billable hour will be spent researching the law -- involving an extremely close reading of statutes and judicial opinions -- to discern applicable legal standards while simultaneously trying to re-characterize, usually in writing, a client's past or intended conduct to fit within the boundaries of those legal standards. That's it. Reading and thinking and writing and fact-checking and proofreading and still more proofreading  -- that's the lawyer's work life. Day in and day out, for usually far more than a "normal" 40-hour workweek. No "argument," no shouting, no drama, no tears or dramatically revealing the real killer. Now do you still want to be a lawyer?
Well, I don't know if I have the energy or the stamina. But I do know that the idea intrigues me tremendously. But that paragraph also puts a good bit of what I observed today in perspective. Nobody was yelling today. In fact, former Judge Campbell was incredibly soft spoken. Well, actually so was Cantelme. They both had to be chided by Judge Silver several times to speak up and more directly into the microphone.

But there were so many more attorneys present today than just Campbell and Cantelme. All of whom that did not directly address the court did pay extremely close attention for the purpose of recognizing any issue or statement that might have any bearing on their respective clients.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this recap of yesterday's proceedings. You have done such great reporting on this issue, actual reporting, and it should be commended.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I second Phoenix Justice. I could not get to the play-by-play on twitter so I really appreciate this recap. Thank you Steve Muratore.

    I think you will make a fabulous attorney.

    ReplyDelete