Now that the dust has settled on the controversial process in the Utah Senate that unnecessarily turned the judicial nomination of Su Chon into a controversy, it's time to air my take on the flaws in the nominating system not from the governor's side, or the judicial nominating committee, but from the Senate itself.
Last week I wrote about the heroes in the Senate who stood against pressure from their own legislative leaders and did the right thing by confirming the appointment of the first member of a minority that Gov. Gary Herbert has nominated to the bench in his three years in office.
This week, I'm writing about the anti-heroes. The reason I believe it's still valid to write about this issue more than a week after its disappearance from the news pages is that nothing has changed to fix what is a glaring problem in the Legislature.
As attorney Mike Martinez points out, the humiliation Chon had to undergo at the hands of a few senators will send a chilling message not only to minority lawyers who would like to be judges, but to women as well.
We'll start with the dictatorial style of Senate President Michael Waddoups, who has had members of the body concerned that if they don't toe the line, they will be punished with less than desirable committee assignments and roadblocks to the passage of their pet bills.
The Senate Judicial Review Committee that was so inappropriate in its questioning and treatment of Chon before refusing to give her nomination a favorable recommendation was stacked by Waddoups with minions who either share his views without question or can be easily controlled by him.
Several senators on the committee, including Waddoups, said they were concerned about Chon's lack of trial experience, even though she has a stellar reputation as a mediator and legal analyzer, and other judges who have proven their worth had little more experience in litigation.
The nature of the questions, in my opinion, proved the trial experience issue was a smoke screen.
I suggested in a previous column that developers on the committee were trying to thwart her because she had been an advocate for property owners caught in the middle of big development. But the problem goes deeper.
Committee member Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, a developer, asked Chon specific questions about her views on zoning and property transfers. When she didn't directly answer the questions to their satisfaction, committee members acted as though that demonstrated a lack of experience.
But Chon couldn't answer them specifically. Otherwise, once on the bench, a smart attorney could demand she be recused from hearing such a case because she had already publicly expressed her opinion. Madsen is also an attorney and should know better.
Waddoups asked Chon her views on requiring school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom. The reason the question was so offensive is because the other nominee before the committee that day, James Blanch, was not asked about the Pledge.
So, committee members felt the need to grill the Korean immigrant and naturalized citizen about her commitment to the flag, but did not feel that need for the Caucasian guy.
And Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, had the audacity to chastise the press for bringing up the issue of ethnicity when the committee already did that with its offensive questions. Dayton, by the way, once helped force a legislative audit of the University of Utah Medical School because she felt that too many ethnic minorities and women were being admitted at the expense of white male Mormons.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, was one of Chon's most vocal opponents in both the committee hearing and closed party caucus, expressing grave concerns about her experience. Thatcher, who was elected in the tea party wave of 2010, is a high school dropout who lives with his mother and lists his occupation in his Senate biography as an "independent low-voltage electrical technician."
The fact that he is judging the experience of a respected attorney is a screaming indictment of our current political state.