Highlights from this afternoon's meeting of the Appellate Court Commission on Appointments include that the chairwoman, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca Burch explaining to several applicants that this was much like a version of speed dating.
One applicant, Frank Verderame, withdrew his name this morning and declined to be interviewed. A friend later asked me how he had done in the interview. The friend said he had been surprised Verderame had applied because he had previously expressed interest in running for office. A person who serves on the AIRC is banned from running for certain offices until three years after the ten year term is finished.
The applicants who had answered NO to the question on availability for IRC meetings, when asked about it in the interview, all indicated that had been a mistake on their part. Two of those three did not make it to the short list. The third, Jimmie D. Smith from Yuma was chosen for the list.
The candidate who interviewed the strongest, Joe Thomas, was immediately ruled out once the committee members started discussing the candidates and the interviews. Thomas has served for several years as a vice-president of the Arizona Education Association (teachers' union). In that capacity, out of an abundance of caution, he (and others similarly situated in the AEA) had filed with the Arizona Secretary of State as being a lobbyist. It is possible (perhaps even likely) that a court could or would have ruled (in the event of a lawsuit) that Thomas did not lobby such that he should be precluded from serving on the IRC. Nevertheless, rather than run the risk of unnecessary litigation, he was not considered further.
Several (but not all) of the other applicants showed strong potential for successfully serving on the commission. One of the most important qualifications was not discussed at all. Namely, being able to stand up to the bickering from Commissioner Scott Freeman. That, of course, was one of the frustrations for Herrera.
Beside Mr. Thomas, in my view, the strongest candidate was Lisette Flores. She's an attorney, currently mostly practicing immigration law with the local non-profit Friendly House. Flores also spent several years working as a prosecutor. There's no question she would have been able to stand up to Freeman. Alas, there was just no interest at all in naming her to the list.
In fact, the only name discussed other than Thomas and the three who did make the list was Andrea Esquer. But only two committee members (out of ten in attendance) voted to even consider her.
So, beside Jimmie D. Smith, the other two individuals on the short list are Cid R. Kallen and Jo Ann Martinez.
Smith applied in 2010 and made the list of 10 eligible Democrats from which Campbell and then Senate Minority Leader David Schapira chose Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty respectively. Smith is an attorney who has been a sole practitioner in Yuma for decades.
Kallen is a US Marine Corps veteran, attorney in private (sole) practice in Yuma and is an Hispanic male.
Martinez is a program director at Arizona State University -- Downtown. She holds a Master's degree in Education and is an Hispanic female.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell now has 14 days to make a decision on which of the three to select. If he does not appoint one of those persons in that time, the Appellate Courts Commission will do it for him.
If a commissioner or chair does not complete the term of office for any reason, the commission on appellate court appointments or its designee shall nominate a pool of three candidates within the first thirty days after the vacancy occurs. The nominees shall be of the same political party or status as was the member who vacated the office at the time of his or her appointment, and the appointment other than the chair shall be made by the current holder of the office designated to make the original appointment. The appointment of a new chair shall be made by the remaining commissioners. If the appointment of a replacement commissioner or chair is not made within fourteen days following the presentation of the nominees, the commission on appellate court appointments or its designee shall make the appointment, striving for political balance and fairness. The newly appointed commissioner shall serve out the remainder of the original term.