It took the better part of a week, but Matt Arnold, the man behind ClearTheBenchColorado.org, has finally gotten the Denver Post to blink.
On Tuesday, the paper published, "AG Suthers May Not Back 3 on State Supreme Court," citing comments Colorado's attorney general made about not supporting the retention of Chief Judge Mary Mullarkey and two of her colleagues, Michael Bender and Alex Martinez. (BusinessWord.com got the scoop.) Arnold was quoted in the piece, and as he made clear in a subsequent post, he wasn't happy about several aspects of it -- specifically the characterizing of his campaign to oust not just Mullarkey, Bender and Martinez, but also Judge Nancy Rice, as a partisan organization infuriated by court decisions that favored Democrats.
Today, the Post published a correction, taking back those assertions -- as well they should have, Arnold believes.
"I'm a registered Republican," he concedes. "But Clear the Bench isn't about Republican versus Democrat or even right versus left. It's about holding our highest court accountable to their oath to uphold the Colorado constitution."
According to Arnold, "I'm ex-military, and I'm still in the Colorado Army National Guard. I've been in Afghanistan and I've been part of a guard contingent that rescued people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. So I put my money where my mouth is. I think it's important for people to contribute to the community with volunteer efforts, and to defend our constitution."
This last conviction led him to found ClearTheBenchColorado.org, which he launched after what he calls "the blatantly unconstitutional mill levy tax freeze ruling handed down on March 16 of last year."
About that decision (read a detailed version of his take here), he says, "Like a lot of people, I was outraged. Our constitution is very clear about raising taxes thanks to TABOR, which was passed in 1992. Now, I know some people don't like it, but the part of it that's overwhelmingly popular here is, if you want to raise taxes, you have to ask the voters.
"Regardless of where you stand about whether we should be raising taxes in a depression or in general, the consensus is overwhelming that if you're going to raise taxes, you have to ask first. But instead, the state court invented a legal loophole and came up with twists of logic and semantic shenanigans to justify blatantly disregarding the clear language of the constitution."
Arnold insists that "I'm not a political animal." But "rather than throwing bricks at my TV, I decided to do something. I did some research and found out that four justices were up for a regularly scheduled retention vote. And I don't think they should be retained."
His reasons go well beyond the mill tax levy ruling. Arnold objects to a gaggle of other Colorado Supreme Court decisions relating to the elimination of tax credits and exemptions, the redefining of taxes as fees, the expansion of eminent domain property seizures and more.
That shouldn't be interpreted as a call for the entire process to be decimated, though.
"I think our rules and our institutions are good ones, and I'm not advocating for direct election of judges," Arnold stresses. "I think the intent behind our current system is to try to take some of the politics out of the judiciary branch, and that's good. But it's clearly failed to work, because we weren't able to take the politics out. What we have is a bevy of justices on Colorado's highest court who are substituting their personal agendas for the rule of law, and that damages all of us, irrespective to our political persuasion -- and that has to stop."
Regarding Suthers, Arnold was at the meeting where the attorney general made negative remarks about Mullarkey, Bender and Martinez, and he praises him for taking a stand.
"It's a bold statement for the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the state to make," he says. "And the fact that we're talking about it shows it's brought attention to the issue. People need to look at this seriously and do some research. This is an education campaign, because so few people are provided with any useful information on the judiciary.
"The judiciary has an inordinate amount of control over people's lives -- this court particularly," he continues. "They're grabbing as much power as they can. But this really is a nonpartisan issue. It's about holding the judges accountable for their proper role as referees, not players."
And about the Post keeping score without misidentifying the teams.
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