Slate Peddles Conspiracy Theory to Explain Conservative Courts


Mark Joseph Stern is a silly person. He’s also a lawyer and writer, employed by Slate to cover the courts with that straight-down-the-middle reportage we’ve come to expect from his colleague Dahlia Lithwick.

On Wednesday, Stern got the hot scoop that when governors fill positions on state supreme courts, they tend to choose jurists with whom they agree. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, nominated Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to fill a vacant seat. And, get this, Montgomery is also a Republican.

In Stern’s world, the best pick was some rando who disagreed with Ducey on every major issue. Stern has thoroughly analyzed the shocking news and figured out the real story behind the nomination: a sinister right-wing conspiracy.

A sampling of his Twitter hysterics:

The “wild-eyed reactionary” in the Arizona governor’s office is a remarkably effective, inoffensive conservative with a bit of a libertarian streak. To compare Ducey to a national figure, an obvious analog is former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. And he’s popular. Ducey was re-elected in a 14-point blowout last year despite constant bashing from public-sector unions and nearly all local media.

Montgomery has long been a figure in local politics and replaced the former County Attorney after a disbarment and several disastrous years. He’s a West Point grad, a Gulf War vet, and has nearly two decades of legal experience. He’s been on the high-court shortlist for years.

The problem for Stern is that Montgomery’s a social conservative, as is the governor. Therefore, there must be a conspiracy afoot.

“To elevate Montgomery,” Stern wrote, “Ducey added two seats to the Supreme Court.” No, the governor expanded the court years ago to be more in line with other state high courts. Pre-Ducey, the Arizona Supreme Court had only five justices despite the national average being seven. Thirty-four states have seven or more jurists on the dais, so the modest reform can hardly be called “court packing.” Stern calls it that anyway.

Ducey did “replace Montgomery’s opponents on the judicial nominating commission” because he’s the governor. He nominated people he wanted and the state senate approved his choices. That’s why they have elections.

This last item also upsets the left because the commission handles redistricting. In 2010, commission Democrats employed non-stop partisan intrigue, inciting legal battles that took years to resolve. Ducey understandably wants to avoid repeating that trainwreck.

Stern and other partisans don’t actually care about the size of Arizona’s high court nor the mechanics of the nominating commission. The only thing they care about his progressive control of the bench.

It’s not a conspiracy when conservative election victories result in conservative policies. If Stern, et al., want all-Democrat high courts, perhaps they should adopt ideas that Arizona voters actually like.

There are 8 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher

    The shade of Charles Dickens is kicking himself that he never bestowed the name “Dahlia Lithwick” on one of his characters.

    • #1
  2. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion

    By adding the word “Repeat” to his tweets, sissy boy really adds gravitas to his fear-mongering.  Pandering to the uninformed has never been easier.

    Next, he’ll advise us on how incoming governors replace the entire executive branch staff with people they want in those positions, and who largely agree with the incoming governor politically!   Repeat:  The incoming governor will……


    Mark Joseph Stern?  No, I’d prefer to Mark Joseph as a chowderhead.

    • #2
  3. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand

    Slate’s legal coverage is the worst.  Mark Joseph Stern is a 20-something recent law school grad who’s never practiced law.  Lithwick is at least a full grown adult but she’s spent little if any of her career in the law and doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between law and policy.   She “thinks” (such as it is) like a journalist, not a lawyer, with all the haste and mental sloppiness that entails.  If these two hacks are “legal experts” then America graduates about 34,000 new legal experts/year.  These two are just two randos from that pile of law school graduates and not exactly the pick of the litter.  More likely they wound up where they are because they couldn’t get real jobs.

    • #3
  4. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    Next, he’ll advise us on how incoming governors replace the entire executive branch staff with people they want in those positions, and who largely agree with the incoming governor politically!

    Remember a few months ago when The Media(tm) kept referring to Attorney General Barr as “Trump’s handpicked Attorney General”?  Because I guess all the Presidents before Trump just had some guy appear in the job randomly.


    • #4
  5. John Park Member
    John Park

    @miffedwhitemale kind of like President Obama’s “wingman” Eric Holder randomly appeared?

    • #5
  6. TBA Coolidge

    John Park (View Comment):

    @miffedwhitemale kind of like President Obama’s “wingman” Eric Holder randomly appeared?

    They say John F. Kennedy picked his AG’s name out of a hat, so that was pretty random. 

    • #6
  7. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental

    TBA (View Comment):
    They say John F. Kennedy picked his AG’s name out of a hat,

    During the Secret Santa drawing at the compound.

    • #7
  8. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    Brett Kavanagh… that’s a name I haven’t heard in years. Wasn’t he supposed to be impeached?

    • #8

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