Mandatory minimum sentences being considered in the legislature

The legislature is currently considering mandatory minimum sentences for crimes such as auto theftSen. Robert Blendu is holding up the legislation from passing.  He opposed mandatory minimums last year as well. Blendu is quoted in the Legislative Report saying, “…to me the better approach is to leave this in the hands of the judges, and have good judges…there really is no chance of redemption after that. It stays there forever, and you can talk about expunging it all you want, but the reality is that they hit another button in the computer and they can go right into the next screen and see that you did have a felony.”

This type of legislation is necessary because too many liberal judges appointed by our governor are letting criminals off the hook, letting them off on probation where they’re free to commit more crimes. The media’s coverage of this has been piecemeal, focusing on how unfair it is for someone who steals an expensive pair of jeans to go to jail. Whatever happened to “do the crime, do the time?”


Comments

  1. kralmajales says

    I never get why the mandatory minimum sentence thing is so danged popular with some of you. The whole point for which our Framers created judges was to consider every circumstance as a set of facts and apply the law to those facts. Some crimes are worse than others and should face serious punishment. Others however should not. Mandatory minimums and three strikes laws have not worked and there is more evidence to support that than anything.

    The truth is that that incarceration does not work and a host of conservatives and liberals agree on this. For the worst of the worst, incarceration is all about keeping them away from society, but in most crimes these folks have to be reintegrated into our communitys.

    The conservative answer appears to be put everyone who committs a crime away for some time, make the environment in their sterile and without any sense of training to when they get let out, and then they face a host of jobs that they will never be allowed to practice in because a felony conviction precludes the placement into a job.

    So what? Well they committ more crimes and go back to prison. All at enormous costs to taxpayers. The only folks that get anything out of this is some of those prison builders out there.

    Some crimes indeed warrant a great deal of punishment. Harsh punishment. Others are non-violent and can be taken care of in a host of ways. Look at what we have done with first time drug offenders via drug courts.

    Oh and you have no idea what you are talking about regarding so called “liberal” judges. The commissions that screen judges most often screen out the most liberal or most conservative. The list she is left to pick has names from both parties and some independents. THIS governor has picked a pretty large number of Republicans off those lists in Maricopa County, I can assure you…and in other parts of the state, they are elected (the other 13 counties).

    Get with it.

  2. Villanova says

    kralmajales:
    The majority of Republican judges appointed by “THIS governor” have been in the counties outside of Maricopa and Pima. None of the thirteen other counties are involved in the Merit Selection process. That means those appointees you are so keen to note, have to run in contested elections in order to retain their appointed seats. When Napolitano appoints a Republican judge in a overwhelmingly Democrat county, the likelihood of that judge being reelected is slim.

    The lists sent to the governor are constitutionally mandated to include not more than 2/3 of one political party. There is no requirement to send registered Independents. There is no maximum number, although the minimum list contains three names.

    You might want to check out the members of the appointment commissions in Maricopa and Pima counties as well as the commission that sends a list for the court of appeals and state supreme court.
    http://www.supreme.state.az.us/jnc/membershiplists.htm

    You will find that your contention that neither conservatives nor liberals are selected (merely middle-of-the-roaders) is all wet. Democrats and their Independent brethren outnumber Republicans on the commissions. Since the governor has to approve the members, who do you think she’ll give preference to?
    On the Appellate Commission, there are:
    4 Republican public members
    2 Republican lawyer members.
    5 Democrat public members
    3 Democrat lawyer members.
    1 “Independent” (usually a concealed Democrat) public member.
    Grand total: 6 Republican, 8 Democrats, 1 Independent.
    Chief justice McGregor–also a Democrat, votes, so factor that in the count.

    Maricopa trial court commission tells the same lopsided story:
    3 Republican public member
    3 Republican lawyer members
    4 Democrat public members
    2 Democrat lawyer members
    2 “Independents”
    1 vacant Republican position—since June 2006.
    Grand total: 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 2 “Independents,” a vacant Republican slot, plus a voting justice.

    Pima trial court commission–ditto.
    3 Republican public members
    2 Republican lawyer members
    4 Democrat public members
    3 Democrat lawyer members
    2 “Independents”
    1 vacant Republican position not filled since 1992—that’s 15 years!!
    Another Democrat voting justice.
    Grand total: 5 Republicans, 7 Democrats, 2 “Independents,” 1 vacant Republican position.

    “Get with it,” yourself.

  3. Keen Observer says

    Just checked out what Villanova wrote and the information is correct. It’s obvious we have some major problems with our judicial selection system. If the thirteen other counties outside Maricopa and Pima elect their judges, maybe the question to ask is if those judges are less qualified and possess lesser legal abilities than those coming through the appointment system. I’ve always heard that elections politicize the judiciary. Sounds as though the merit system is plenty political, as it is. The term “Merit Selection” is intriguing. It reminds me of other less than forthright, but catchy names such as “Planned” Parenthood and “Clean” Elections.

    Until checking the information provided on the supreme court link, I had no idea the selection commissioners were appointed by political parties. So we have political operatives involved at the front end of the process and a political operative at the back end? Would you be willing to bet the judicial applicants’ political parties are known to the selection commissioners AND the appointing governor?

    I’d be happy to have more information on these applicants and be involved in the process myself—-as a VOTER!

  4. kralmajales says

    Villanova,

    I was talking about the fact that “this Governor” has appointed Republicans and Independents in Maricopa County. Not as many as Democrats, sure, but hey, you don’t have the Governorship. I am not sure of your facts that she has appointed Republicans to fill unexpired terms in the other 13 counties that have elections. Show me some facts on that. The fact is though that those other counties have elections so if you want blame anyone there, blame the voters.

    As to the Merit Selection system, your facts are totally correct on the numbers you reported and yes there are independents serving on each. But to use these numbers, which are still quite balanced frankly, to say that this leads to an overwhelming number of liberals being reported is just not true.

    Finally, the Boards of Supervisor members of each of Maricopa and Pima appointed members to the two county commissions. Each must appoint two members to the commission as you correctly note. Well, in Maricopa the commissioners I believe are dominated Republican. If there is a stacked deck, shouldn’t it be the responsibility of those Supervisors? Next, yes, the Governor appoints them but the Republican dominated Senate Judiciary Committee confirms them. Where is their role in this if there are so many “liberals” and such and imbalance in the system.

    Finally, “this Governor” gets a lot of heat from her own party about being a serial triangulator. She has appointed Republicans in Maricopa off the 2/3 list. I would wager more than past Republican governors have of Democrats.

    Finally, with such a balance on those commissions as you correctly note, there is not dominance of any ideology. If you check the votes and the records of the Commissions, you will find quite a consensus on most slates and nominations. You will also find some split votes, but very few. Finally, you will find that commissioners scrutinize the applications and even do background checks on applicants for criminal records and bar complaints. None of which are done for elections.

    I go back to the original statement that was posed about liberal judges letting people out. The commissions have done an extraordinary job getting top flight people into these positions. They are very very qualified and are not ideologues.

    People often rail against things they dont adequately understand. You are more informed than mosts as you at least posted the breakdown of the commissions. But I still think you get it wrong in a big big way. And if you aren’t, maybe your party should work a little harder to be sure you get representation on those commissions. Having an unfilled seat, I will agree, is disgusting. I am sure it is a Democrat holding it up. Demand that they appoint a Republican or someone from another party. I am sure the commission will very much appreciate it.

  5. kralmajales says

    Oh…and by the way, the Democrat voting Justice you speak of in Pima County never votes unless a vote is needed to get quorum. Which is very very rare. The Justice traditional recuses him/herself.

    I am with it also.

  6. kralmajales:
    It’s clear you are being fed–but only partially correct information. Much of what you write is garbled half truths, intended to persuade those who know less than you do regarding this topic. As a teacher, you should know that facts are the essence of any cogent argument. Yours are woefully lacking.

    Can’t help but notice a distinct resemblance between you and your Kral Majales (King of May) hero Alan Ginsberg, who wrote, “I Celebrate Myself.”
    If anyone is keeping track, stick with Villanova–who has it exactly right.

    When you get a law degree and apply for a judgeship, come back to this table on this subject.

  7. Pertinent to the topic of judicial selection is today’s announcement made by Gov. Napolitano.

    In filling judicial vacancies, who did she pick, but one of her favorite legislative comrades, the very liberal, and just former, Dist. 14 state senator, Bill Brotherton. Yet “kralmajales” thinks this is a process that is outside the realm of politics? Regardless of any other appointments, this one is a sterling and blatant example of a system rife with cronyism. A black robe makes a nice reward for his votes in support of the governor and her programs.

    Napolitano’s display of arrogance in this ham-handed gesture speaks volumes about the problems with the current system. Her lack of discomfort in making such an obvious political appointment should put all Arizona citizens on alert.

  8. Just Curious says

    I thought this post was dealing with mandatory minimum sentences, not judicial selections. Personally, I believe that mandatory minimums are a bad thing (at least for things like drug offenses and auto theft…when you start talking about child predators the all bets are off). Clearly they do not work. All you need to do is look at the drug problem in this country to see that. I agree with Mr. Blendu, we have good judges in this state. Let them do their jobs. If you do not like how they get their job, change the person putting them there. If you think that the judge is doing a bad job and they were voted in…vote them out.

  9. John Q. Public says

    Judicial selection is a relevant aspect of the discussion of mandatory sentences.

    BTW, no appointed trial court judge has been “voted out” in over thirty years, when Maricopa County Judge Fred Hyder failed to garner enough votes on the retention ballot. Merit selection of judges was instituted in 1974.

    Most voters don’t know enough about those up for retention to vote intelligently, so they either vote for, or against, the entire list. The retention factor was a feel-good element incorporated to make the voters think they actually have a voice in the process. They don’t.

  10. Sonoran Truth Squad says

    The selection process picks three lefties and sends them to the Governor to pick one. The problem here is that even a conservative Governor will be stuck with picking the best of three bad choices… Let’s elect them!

    Judge Brotherton? God help us…

  11. Villanova says

    That’s a common misconception, STS.
    The list doesn’t have to be limited to three names. It can include the entire interview list if the commission decides to send them all to the appointing governor. The only mandate is that it not consist of more than 2/3 of one particular political party.

    Judges are, in fact, elected in Arizona’s thirteen other counties. Only Maricopa and Pima participate in this scheme. A problem exists for the several counties rapidly approaching the 250,000 population threshold that will automatically throw them into this unholy mix.

  12. kralmajales says

    This scheme is far superior to election. As I mentioned in my earlier post that defended merit selection in our two largest counties, there are a LOT of assumptions being made and thrown about without much fact. Villanova has produced the most facts of any that have responded here thus far…and that was the make up of the Commissions. No one has responded to my point that the process is just that…a process. There also is a large assumption being made that the fix is in. I would like to see the size of the votes on each commission and just how split they are. If they are not split, then either they have found a candidate that most believe has excellent temperament, excellent qualifications as a public servant, and fits the constitution mandate of the diversity of our state…OR…the Republicans that are on those committees are not doing their job in some way and are allowing cronyism and politics to win them over.

    Which gets me to my other point, in what way do Republicans have no control over this proces? One way is to actually get members appointed to the Commissions, another is the one thing no one has address here…that is to use the Senate power of confirmation more effectively. Remember that each commissioner must go before the Governor and then the Senate Judiciary for approval. Well under one of the most conservative panels in state history, (Huppenthal, Harper, Gould, etc) these fine Commissioners were approved. Maybe they saw something in the Commissions that you all dont seem to be looking at. Fairness and integrity.

    Finally, if you want to “control” the process of selecting judges. Why not take back the Governorship or press your Republican Governors when in Office. Many are still left over from the Hull administration.

    As to my so called garbled half truths, I would be so happy to discuss the merits and problems with each of merit selection and election. With you…or with anyone here that wants to listen. And, I did not personally attack you…did I? Merit selection has problems…Election has MAJOR problems for the integrity of our courts and our judges.

    Finally, I never said the merit selection system wasn’t political. OF course it is and yes, UofA law, that is what I teach. All systems are political, but some processes have adverse effects on fairness and impartiality in justice. The fix is not in. Why not go out and attend the public meetings and make your voice heard? Why not go out and actually become a commissioner yourself? Why not press leaders who appoint commissioners to appoint good members of your party? Finally, encourage people to become judges. I know the Pima commission gets very few Republican applicants..and as I said, Napolitano has appointed Republicans…even when she had a list of Democrats.

    So where are my half-garbled truths. With a little civility, I will admit when I am wrong and will possibibly bring up a few points that might persuade you.

  13. Courthouse Joe says

    It is Kral who fails to understand the facts of merit selection.

    Failing to understand a “process?” Who are you kidding? The fix is, indeed, in. The commissioners are not self appointed. Regardless of your contention that Republicans serve on the confirming senate judiciary committee, the fact remains that qualified appointed commissioners are not disapproved without cause. Political affiliation is not just cause. The system undergirding confirmation has nothing to do with “fairness and integrity,” rather party affiliations. There are lawyer and non-lawyer positions to be filled with ALL persons representing political parties. As to your case of Republicans taking back the governor’s office: That would be optimum, of course. However, the current governor has stacked the commissions, with her appointees serving staggered, four-year terms. If we had a Republican governor tomorrow, the damage to the forthrightness of the commission’s configurations would continue for years. As was pointed out in a previous post, Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats on the commissions. Then, factor in the registered Independents who are clearly not Republicans and the lopsided aspect of the appointment process becomes even more apparent.

    What you have written to date clearly indicates your information on this subject is severely limited. You are obviously being fed by a left-handed spoon. The abysmal lack of knowledge you exhibit on this subject would be enough to make most people leave the forum and discuss a subject with which they had at least a passing knowledge. Lacking a medical degree, I would not take on the subject of neurosurgery, since my expertise is not in that field. I’d hate to be around you if I had a headache and you had a scalpel.

  14. kralmajales says

    I understand the process completely and you are having a very hard time dealing with my argument about the fact that there are Republicans on these commissions and that the balance is not as stacked as you believe. Look at the votes on the commissions and many of the members on these commmissions have been on for many many terms. Back to Hull (although I know you all don’t like her much).

    It is easy to attack a process that you do not understand and look at a balance and declare cavalierly that the “fix is in”. Have you ever been to a Commission meeting? Have you ever seen the public deliberation that is afforded? Have you ever watched the discussion that occurrs?

    I you have, you will quickly find, maybe to your detriment that there is no fix in for anyone. Which is frankly why many of you think elections are better. They are in Mesa where you will likely get a conservative judge who might tow your party line. But in Pima County and other parts of the state, you will not get that whatsoever.

    Back to the “fix”. The commissioners screen the application for merit. They look for public service, a record of excellent legal work, they interview the candidates and listen to them. They also check references and ask for comment from members of the public. They refrain from blatantly political questions. The Republicans do this job and do it very well. The votes generally end with consensus and often super majorities where Republicans vote for the most qualified Democrats and Republicans that will appear on this list. They are vetted also by the state Bar for bar complaints and their criminal background is checked as well.

    NONE of this occurs in an election. NONE. In an election, even non-partisan, judges are forced to campaign like politicians. They take stands on issues of the day which make them appear partisan. They also must accept campaign dollars from special interests to run their campaigns.

    How would you all feel if you came before a judge in a property dispute and you learned that the judge had accepted contributions from an environmental group during the campaign? How would you feel if the dollars came from members of the opposing law firm?

    This is exactly what you get in Texas where they elect judges. You have judges like those who heard Tom Delay’s case that received campaign donations from Move-ON.org. Either way, when judges campaign it leaves a stain on them and on our law. It gives the appearance of impropriety, imbalance, and a lack of fairness.

    Finally, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents do have a voice in this process. Republicans are at the table even if outnumbered as you say. Again, use the process you are afforded before you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Finally, attack me all you want. I can assure you I am not being fed by any leftwing group or anything. I am providing facts. Again, there are strengths and weaknesses to EVERY process. The fact that one Commissioner in Pima County fails to do his constitutional duty to appoint a Republican commissioner is ridiculous. The chair of the Pima Committee, yes a so called liberal justice, has written to him an called him to urge that appointment.

    You all should too. I believe it is Joel Valdez. If you are in his district, call his office and apply yourself as a public member. You will be quite welcome on the commission I bet. Also, you might call your Republican representatives and ask them about the process and see if they feel so outnumbered and at the mercy of the liberals. I bet, again, you will find this not to be true.

    I am waiting for a better alternative to this system. I can give you a few good reasons for elections and for appointment with confirmation, but I can also make a very good case to you that these systems did very little to benefit Republicans and that these processes are much less fair and are far more political.

  15. kralmajales says

    I understand the process completely and you are having a very hard time dealing with my argument about the fact that there are Republicans on these commissions and that the balance is not as stacked as you believe. Look at the votes on the commissions and many of the members on these commmissions have been on for many many terms. Back to Hull (although I know you all don’t like her much).

    It is easy to attack a process that you do not understand and look at a balance and declare cavalierly that the “fix is in”. Have you ever been to a Commission meeting? Have you ever seen the public deliberation that is afforded? Have you ever watched the discussion that occurrs?

    I you have, you will quickly find, maybe to your detriment that there is no fix in for anyone. Which is frankly why many of you think elections are better. They are in Mesa where you will likely get a conservative judge who might tow your party line. But in Pima County and other parts of the state, you will not get that whatsoever.

    Back to the “fix”. The commissioners screen the application for merit. They look for public service, a record of excellent legal work, they interview the candidates and listen to them. They also check references and ask for comment from members of the public. They refrain from blatantly political questions. The Republicans do this job and do it very well. The votes generally end with consensus and often super majorities where Republicans vote for the most qualified Democrats and Republicans that will appear on this list. They are vetted also by the state Bar for bar complaints and their criminal background is checked as well.

    NONE of this occurs in an election. NONE. In an election, even non-partisan, judges are forced to campaign like politicians. They take stands on issues of the day which make them appear partisan. They also must accept campaign dollars from special interests to run their campaigns.

    How would you all feel if you came before a judge in a property dispute and you learned that the judge had accepted contributions from an environmental group during the campaign? How would you feel if the dollars came from members of the opposing law firm?

    This is exactly what you get in Texas where they elect judges. You have judges like those who heard Tom Delay’s case that received campaign donations from Move-ON.org. Either way, when judges campaign it leaves a stain on them and on our law. It gives the appearance of impropriety, imbalance, and a lack of fairness.

    Finally, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents do have a voice in this process. Republicans are at the table even if outnumbered as you say. Again, use the process you are afforded before you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Finally, attack me all you want. I can assure you I am not being fed by any leftwing group or anything. I am providing facts. Again, there are strengths and weaknesses to EVERY process. The fact that one Commissioner in Pima County fails to do his constitutional duty to appoint a Republican commissioner is ridiculous. The chair of the Pima Committee, yes a so called liberal justice, has written to him an called him to urge that appointment.

    You all should too. I believe it is Joel Valdez. If you are in his district, call his office and apply yourself as a public member. You will be quite welcome on the commission I bet. Also, you might call your Republican representatives and ask them about the process and see if they feel so outnumbered and at the mercy of the liberals. I bet, again, you will find this not to be true.

    I am waiting for a better alternative to this system. I can give you a few good reasons for elections and for appointment with confirmation, but I can also make a very good case to you that these systems did very little to benefit Republicans and that these processes are much less fair and are far more political.

  16. Out county App says

    You have no idea what you’re talking about, Kralmajales.

    This subject is far more complex than the funnel placed in your ear allows you to digest and spew forth with any cogency. You have bits of fact tangled with massive misinformation. Get your handlers to give you a different subject, since this one is out of your league. I know merit selection as an applicant and as an elected judge. Although campaigning can be difficult, I’ll take elections any day of the week.

  17. kralmajales says

    Why would you take elections any day of the week over merit selection?

    It is great that you like elections better than merit selection, but I am still not hearing why it is worse than elections and no one has yet addressed my concerns about judges raising money and candidates campaigning and making “promises”…and how that looks on a court.

    I also think I put forth some very cogent and thoughtful arguments that some of you want to knock and not try, but not try and debate…legitimately. You just say I don’t know what I am talking about.

    I can say this. If you knew the facts on both sides and had seen the commissions in operation, you might find that I am quite right about many of the things I have said.

    In fact, I have yet to see an argument hear yet that said anything but that the “fix is in” (essentially) and assumptions that elections benefit republicans and merit benefits democrats.

    I am glad you got elected and I am sure you are a good judge…at least I hope you are. But I hope your objections are not simply because you got picked in one process and not in the other. I wont make that assumption though, unlike you, who have made many many assumptions about my knowledge of this subject.

  18. I’m optimisitic things are looking up for everybody so they can finally be who they are!

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