Arizona and Kansas Use the Courts as Pawns to Further Radical Right-Wing Policies

Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Doug Ducey smiles after voting in the Paradise Valley section of Phoenix,
Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Doug Ducey smiles after voting in the Paradise Valley section of Phoenix, Arizona August 26, 2014. Voters in Arizona go to the polls on Tuesday to select a Republican candidate to vie for the seat of outgoing Governor Jan Brewer, who has repeatedly clashed with the Obama administration over illegal immigration. REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS)

Arizona and Kansas share much in common. Conservative Republican governance has crippled both states and the governors of both are trying to undermine the judicial branch so as to have no encumbrance on their radical conservative agenda. Both are influenced heavily by Koch brothers money with Kansas being home to Koch Enterprises and the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, being called the "other Koch brother" after being elected with millions in contributions from the two brothers. Arizona has cut education more than any other state and Kansas cut education so deeply the state supreme court ruled the cuts unconstitutional. Both states have huge fiscal deficits because of repeated rounds of budget cuts for the wealthy.

One would think that the governors of these state's would admit failure and change course, but of course, as the saying goes, "Conservatism cannot fail, only we can fail conservatism." If so, the citizens of Kansas and Arizona have both collectively failed the conservative cause, but Kansas Governor Brownback and Arizona Governor Ducey apparently think there is some time horizon that the ideology will bring prosperity to their respective states, perhaps if measured in geological epochs. If need be, they are perfectly willing to sacrifice the economy of their respective state's and the people's very livelihoods on the altar of conservatism.

Anyway, both show little but contempt for the judiciary and the respective checks and balances of governance. For example, to continue his radical experiment in reactionary policies unfettered and against the will of the people, (polls in Arizona show people want to spend more money on the schools, for example), Governor Ducey and Republican legislators are engaging in a kind of fiscal blackmail where they will only agree to fund the judiciary if the governor can appoint an additional two justices to the state highest court.

According to the Daily Kos:

"The state budget being debated by the Legislature would take $6 million from court accounts and provide more money only if a bill adding two justices to the Arizona Supreme Court passes."

"The proposed cuts would affect jury pay, substance abuse treatment, sex offender and drug treatment programs, and treatment for abused children. Here's the deal: The judiciary can get the money and other requested funds if the Republican-controlled legislature adds two seats to the five-person Arizona Supreme Court, and Gov. Doug Ducey gets to appoint the new justices."

Undoubtedly, the Arizona governor would pack the court with radical conservatives like his first appointment, Clint Bolick, who before his appointment "worked at the libertarian Goldwater Institute since 2007, where he filed numerous cases against the state--mostly because elected officials wanted to spend money on children, sick people, and the poor."

In Kansas, Brownback and rabid conservative legislators want to nullify the state's "activist" court because judges occasionally have the temerity to do their jobs and rule legislation unconstitutional, such as inadequate education funding. According to an article in The Wichita Eagle:

"The Kansas Senate voted 21-19 - the barest margin possible - to send the House a bill that would establish "attempting to usurp" legislative powers as grounds for impeaching justices of the state Supreme Court.

At present, the only guideline for an impeachable offense is the Constitution's provision for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Senate Bill 439 establishes a list of impeachable offenses for Kansas justices and other elected officials, including "attempting to subvert fundamental laws and introduce arbitrary power" and "attempting to usurp the power of the legislative or executive branch of government.""

The only purpose of the bill is to intimidate the courts for political reasons. Besides what if the courts ruled this very bill unconstitutional? Would the legislative branch then just ignore the ruling? The measure sets up a constitutional crisis. The Kansas Court is not usurping the power of the legislative branch, but simply acting as a check and balance against tyranny. Of course, the authoritarian Republicans whose policies often border on fascism see the courts merely as an obstacle to creating a conservative utopia where free market principles and an anti-regulatory agenda goes unchecked. Surely, somewhere the Koch brothers are laughing