Governor Fletcher brings credibility of courts into question

   The News Enterprise of Elizabethtown, Ky. published the following editorial on July 22th.  It expresses a growing concern over the Governor’s action regarding the courts.   He vetoed a portion of a bill providing funding for the election this fall of nine new judges, and the result is he will appoint those judges.

His appointments to the Supreme Court at a time when he is under indictment, and has and will be expected to appeal cases concerning his administration and his own criminal charges raises eyebrows. 

It appears improper for a criminal defendant to be able to appoint his own judges.  His recusal motion against his own trial judge, at a time he is filling vacancies on the Franklin Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, gives the appearance of court tampering.  

We do not criticize the Governor for appointing republicans to the judiciary, that is his constitutional right. Further we cannot find any flaws in the legal credentials of any judge he has appointed. We do question his appointment of special judges to the Supreme Court when his administration was seeking the dismissal and sealing of indictments against his administration and the appeal was heard by the judges he appointed. 

A legal doctrine that guides and underpins judicial ethics is the concept that no judge should be in a situation where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.   This same doctrine should apply to the Governor in his appointment of judges.  In performing his judicial appointment function, his conduct should remain above reproach.  Many find he  has not met that standard.

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The News Enterprise  editiorial is excerpted here:
The Unseen Victim Of Hiring Scandal  Fletcher and the courts 

OUR VIEW: Case threatens system’s credibility
The silent victim of the clamor surrounding the Fletcher administration’s hiring practices in Frankfort and what might be the biggest political cover-up in Kentucky history could be the credibility of the state’s judiciary.
No one expects much of Kentucky governors any longer. Voters long ago gave up on the General Assembly.
Now this. Deteriorating public trust in the judiciary entrusted with interpreting and upholding the Kentucky Constitution and protecting our civil liberties could well be the lasting legacy of Gov. Ernie Fletcher when he is evicted from the governor’s mansion in a couple of years.
[...]
The shredding of the veil of respect for the law began when Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, himself a former prosecuting attorney, insulted the integrity and intelligence of citizen-jurors everywhere by implying they can be manipulated by prosecutors to indict even a ham sandwich. Then, when the special grand jury in Frankfort in fact indicted nine ham sandwiches, the governor pardoned them, and everyone, except himself, who might be indicted in the future.
It’s bad enough that the governor who promised to clean up Frankfort would corrupt the legal process with blanket pardons for everybody who takes orders from him, but then the state Supreme Court upheld his right to do that.

The decision moved then-Justice William Cooper of Elizabethtown to write a blistering minority opinion that said, “History will not forget nor fondly remember the day that the Supreme Court of Kentucky put its imprimatur on a governor’s scheme to cover up alleged wrongdoing within his administration by granting a blanket pardon to all persons under investigation by a sitting grand jury.?
To make matters worse, the panel that made the decision included a judge Fletcher appointed. A second judge appointed by Fletcher had the ethics, integrity and good sense to recuse himself.
Then, in a totally unrelated case, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert inserted in the footnotes the advice to Fletcher that implied he could win his case if he used the defense that a sitting governor cannot be prosecuted unless he has been impeached by the Legislature.
[...]
The final travesty in this bizarre series of aberrant and abhorrent judicial decrees would be if the courts listen to Fletcher’s lawyers and deny the public the opportunity to hear his explanation and answers to questions, under oath, in an open courtroom.
There is more at stake today than Fletcher’s political future. It’s history. The credibility of the courts means too much to be frittered away.

 

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