U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings that judges should be considered “umpires.”
When Janet Napolitano appointed long-time friend Scott Bales to the Arizona Supreme Court, I expressed concern about the appearance of cronyism. Bales not only worked for Napolitano in the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Attorney General’s office, but he represented her gubernatorial campaign and then, most importantly, Bales argued for Napolitano against the Legislature in a challenge to her line-item veto authority. And he won for Napolitano in the Arizona Supreme Court.
Now a nearly identical battle over Napolitano’s line-item veto authority is before the Arizona Supreme Court, but this time, Napolitano’s lawyer is on the bench! And as this story indicates, he has no intention of recusing himself because of a potential conflict of interest.
Using Chief Justice Roberts’ baseball example, here’s what has happened: Team Napolitano is playing Team Legislature in a doubleheader. Scott Bales is Team Napolitano’s pitcher, and he pitches well, striking out many members of Team Legislature and getting the win.
The teams take a break between games. At the start of the second game, Team Legislature notices a change in Team Napolitano’s line-up as Scott Bales has changed out of his Napolitano uniform and is now wearing the uniform of an umpire. Bales takes up his position at home plate, ready to call balls and strikes.
Does this seem fair to you?