Monday, November 30, 2009
The already politically fractured State Supreme Court has become even more so with another 4-3 ruling that will either create a "constitutional crisis" or foster more public confidence in the high court. The court has adopted new rules saying, if a justice is accused of an alleged conflict of interest, the justice has a right to decide that, but if a majority of the court disagrees with that conclusion, it can bounce the justice from a case. "Those contesting traffic tickets will enjoy greater constitutional protection than justices of this court," bemoaned Justice Corrigan who joined with her pals Justices Young and Markman in berating the majority. Clearly madder than a wet hen, Justice Corrigan predicted the ruling more fray the so-called collegiality of the high court…if there was any after the GOP lost control of the court in the last election. The sleeping judge commercial that the D's used to unseat former Chief Justice Cliff Taylor started this latest round of bad blood and this conflict of interest ruling pours more salt on that wound. That aside, reasonable men and women will conclude that it is a little dicey for a judge to decide his or her own conflict fate. If the court wants to instill public confidence in its rulings, it seems logical that a back up system is needed in case a jurist turns out to be myopic to a conflict charge. In fact one would think a justice would want a fail safe system just to be sure. But if you understand the reasoning by the minority, the individual justice should be judge and jury with no review by anyone which is the standard now. It is possible that some barrister may try to manipulate this rule to eliminate a justice who is preceived to be unfavorable to a client, but we have to trust that the other members of the court would not fall for that. Maybe it is a leap of faith? After all one could argue that in the legislature there is no peer review of a members potential conflict nor does the governor have someone reading over her shoulder looking for a conflict, either. So why discriminate against the high court? Because it is the high court.