Torkelson: Voters asked to retain Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick

On his first day at the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Clint Bolick posted a sign in his office. It had two simple rules he expected staff to follow.

Rule One: Call me Clint; Rule Two: There are no other rules.  Although the first rule was never followed, I can think of no better example of the humility with which Justice Bolick has approached his job as the 44th justice of the Arizona Supreme Court—always taking his work, but never himself, seriously.

I had the honor and privilege of serving as Justice Bolick’s law clerk for almost two years. From the moment he took the bench, he demonstrated a passion to execute his civic duty and fiercely protect both the federal and state constitutions. He did this every day with a smile, a venti Starbucks hot chocolate, and respect for his colleagues and attorneys who argued before him.

Of the attorneys who argued before him, those surveyed gave him a 100 percent score on legal ability, integrity, and administrative performance.  The high marks extended to those that worked behind the scenes, as well.  Court staff joked he needed a Supreme Court greeter vest because he always stopped to say hello to everyone.

In November, voters will be faced with a survey of their own.  On the back of the ballot Arizonans will determine whether to retain Justice Bolick on the high court.  This vote is based upon whether he has the judicial temperament, ability, and skill to remain on the bench.  I know Justice Bolick exhibits these characteristics because I saw it every day without waiver.

Since his time on the court, Justice Bolick has written 32 opinions. Of the 15 times he wrote for the majority, 14 of them were unanimous opinions. This amounts to hundreds, if not thousands, of pages where Justice Bolick outlines exactly how he came to his decision.  Importantly, in not one of those decisions will you find “the party’s identity” a deciding factor.

And there is no reason you would.  Justice Bolick is the only Independent to ever serve on the Arizona Supreme Court.  Indeed, independence is the cornerstone of his jurisprudence. The only common denominator throughout his writings is the plain language of the law.  What it says is what it means.  If you don’t like what it says, look to the Legislature.

Some say true bravery comes in dissent.  Justice Bolick has never shied from writing in opposition.  In fact, he began his first dissent praising our freedom-loving state, while noting the very words on the Supreme Court building, “Where law ends, tyranny begins,” informing readers of a “draconian” Arizona law affecting a homeless man.

Beyond judicial temperament, ability, and skill, Justice Bolick also has an unparalleled dedication to our great state.  I remember two times where Justice Bolick was overcome with excitement. The first was when the Pokémon Go craze was at its height and some of the clerks found a Pokémon on his desk.  The second was when he found out he would once again be teaching, this time Constitutional Law at ASU.  Teaching, in any form, has always been a source of pride for Justice Bolick.  It is why he insists on hiring an intern to work alongside his clerks every semester in chambers. There are countless mentees, just like me, who are forever grateful to learn from him.

Before November, I hope you read his opinions (azjustice44.com) and watch the oral arguments (azcourts.gov). There you will see a justice whose impartiality and independence allows him to look beyond party and political favor to address each case anew.  When you reach the back of your ballot consider what Arizona needs in the black robe.  Then, grab a hot chocolate and join me in voting to retain Justice Bolick.

Ashley Torkelson is currently an attorney serving in the United States Air Force. The views expressed are those of Ms. Torkelson only and not those of the United States Air Force or Department of Defense.


Leave a Reply