Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Standard-Examiner Guest Editorial: Appointment Appropriate for Attorney General Position

A tantalizingly interesting proposal, wethinks

One Smart Dude
In the wake of the steady torrent of bad news concerning our sitting Utah Attorney General John Swallow, and that of his immediate predecessor Mark Shurtleff, we'd like to shine the spotlight on a top-notch guest editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, in which Utah State Senator Todd Weiler marshals what we believe to be a strong argument for changing the method of choosing Utah's Attorney General.  Weiler contends that Utah should dump the current method of  "electing" our top Utah law enforcement official, and that we should convert the Utah Attorney General position to one which would be filled by means of gubernatorial appointment instead.

Read up, folks:
At risk being accused of taking "liberties" with Sen. Weiler's three main reasons to "change to appointment" of  Utah's Attorney General, here they are they are in a nutshell, boiled down as we see them, at least:
  1. An appointment process would de-politicize (and professionalize) the role of  Utah Attorneys General, and remove the grubby influence of political party partisanship and favoritism from the office.
  2. Such a process would eliminate the incentives for campaign fund-raising "bad behavior" which are inherent in the current Utah Attorney General "election" system.
  3. An appointment process would remove the responsibility of choosing our Attorney General from Utah's relatively uninformed (read gullible) Utah electorate, and place it in the hands of a better-informed "commission," a proposed body of legal "experts" who'd have the added advantage of screening candidates and making appointment recommendations from a "greater pool of qualified candidates" (than those who emerge from Utah's current nomination and election process.)
Down below this morning's guest commentary we find this comment from one gentle S-E reader, who voices what probably amounts to the typical knee-jerk reaction which we might expect from the average politically-cynical Utah voter, one who's fearful about being taken "out of the loop" in the A.G. selection process:
Election, appointment, same-o. We get a crooked Republican who gave the Gov and UDOT a get out of jail free card. As long as the "Party" rules, there is no justice. 
We believe such an objection lacks merit, however, inasmuch as removing the current party-partisan "taint" is precisely what the good GOP Senator does propose:
In New Jersey, the attorney general serves for a fixed term in an  appointment system. This provides independence, without substituting  dependency on voters and campaign contributors. In the best judicial  appointment systems, like Utah’s, governors select judges from a group  of five nominees who are screened and proposed by a commission. This  adds an assurance of candidate quality and to limit executive  discretion, which includes avoiding purely patronage and unqualified  appointments. This process is adaptable to attorney general selection.
It's a tantalizingly interesting proposal, wethinks.

So what do our ever-savvy and gentle Weber County Forum readers have to say about all this?


Ed F. said...

Worth thinking about, since appointed officials NEVER become corrupted like elected officials . . . and the dominant party will always choose the right person for the job . . . . because the Democratic administrations of the past were so boringly normal, efficient and apparently not corrupt, that we just can't trust them in office . . . besides, if the best the Dems could come up with is Dee Smith, then all hope is lost anyway . . . then there is Andy McCullough . . .

rudizink said...

I think the key to Weiler's proposal is in the committee "pre-selection," where AG candidates would be screened according to their actual legal/professional qualifications, in the manner that Utah judges are vetted prior to gubernatorial appointment. The fly in the ointment, methinks? We'd need some process to ensure the selection and nomination committee would be composed of folks who are at least reasonably honest and politically-neutral. Looking at the big picture however, in a circumstance where the current nomination process has delivered us "gems" like Shurtleff, Swallow, and Smith over the past 12 years, could an "independent" A.G. nominee selection committee possibly do any worse? Just a thought.

blackrulon said...

Just another layer of secrecy. A appointed Attorney General vetted and selected in a secret Republican closed caucus. How does this benefit the citizens of Utah? Just another attempt to deprive Utah voters of a choice in selecting governent leaders.

smaatguy said...

a dart board would have proved better than the last 3 clown selections

Bob Becker said...

The potential benefit is this: having been appointed by the Governor the Governor will be considered responsible for the AG's conduct in office. I think it probable that if John Swallow served at the pleasure if the Governor, he'd have been sacked by now.

blackrulon said...

That is no assurance that the job will not just become a reward for faithful service to the party holding the Governors position. . Letting the Governor fill the position takes a direct voting choice away from Utah voters. The qualifications held by the various elected job seekers are known to the public. Filling the job by appointment adds a layer of secrecy to the selection process.

rudizink said...

A wee bit more "grist" for the "discussion mill":

Letter: Keep voters picking AG

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