Tom Horne's Complaint Against Mark Brnovich's Judge Wife Rejected
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has a fierce following among certain women. In fact, the guy's got a whole cadre of gals willing to do his bidding, a veritable Praetorian Guard of political hatchet-ladies.
Kathleen Winn, Horne's outreach director and co-defendant in his campaign finance case, comes to mind. A die-hard Horne loyalist, I guess you could say she's the captain of Horne's Praetorian Guard.
One Horne partisan from Pinal County is Teresa Ottesen Binder, whom I met at a cocktail-party/fundraiser for the AG that I crashed back in May.
Binder struck me as a nice enough person, though like most in Horne's ever-dwindling camp, she seemed completely incapable of explaining her support for a sleaze like Horne.
Susan Brnovich's appearance in this campaign video for her hubby Mark is a-okay, according to AZ's Commission on Judicial Conduct
Binder was on the host committee for a May fundraiser for Horne, and in 2013, when Horne held a press conference, backing legislation allowing select educators to pack pistols in public schools, Binder, a substitute teacher, was there to support the proposal.
See, Susan Brnovich is a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge, and she has appeared in a YouTube video for the campaign, wherein she discusses what a great guy her husband is, natch.
Pretty tame stuff, but there was a legitimate question about whether Judge Brnovich was allowed to do this under Arizona's Code of Judicial Conduct, which bars judges from campaigning for anyone but themselves.
Former Justice of the Peace Lester Pearce famously fell afoul of this code while stumping for his brother, recalled ex-state Senator Russell Pearce.
As a result, Lester Pearce was censured and fined by Arizona's Commission on Judicial Conduct, though Lester had already left the bench to run unsuccessfully for county supervisor.
My article examined the issue and presented both sides. Binder sent along a copy of that blog item with her form complaint to the commission .
The commission rendered a judgment on the issue on May 19, in an order written by commission chair Louis Frank Dominguez.
According to this order, the commission was already looking into the matter when Binder submitted her complaint.
Essentially, the commission found that Judge Brnovich's actions were inside the line because, unlike in the Lester Pearce case, Brnovich did not identify herself as a judge and neither did the video. Rather, she was presented as Brnovich's devoted spouse.
With regard to the campaign video at issue, the judge did not appear in the campaign video in her capacity as a judge and did not identify herself as a judge. The video, similarly, did not identify the judge's office or position in any way. Further, Judge Brnovich did not state or imply that her position as a judge should persuade voters to support her husband.
The responsibility of the Commission on Judicial Conduct is to impartially determine if the judge engaged in conduct that violated the provisions of Article 6.1 of the Arizona Constitution or the Code of Judicial Conduct and, if so, to take appropriate disciplinary action. The purpose and authority of the commission is limited to this mission. The commission particularly notes that the Code explicitly states that its rules are "rules of reason" and that members are directed to consider a variety of factors and circumstances in determining whether a judge's conduct violates the Code in a particular situation.
After review of all relevant materials, facts, and circumstances, the commission found no evidence of ethical misconduct and concluded that Judge Brnovich did not violate the Code in this case.
While Rule 4.1(A)(3) prohibits a judicial officer from publicly endorsing another candidate for public office, and there is no "family exception" to this rule, the extension of the prohibition to a circumstance where the judge does not identify herself as a judge or even imply she is a judge is not consistent with the directive that the rules be applied as rules of reason. Based on the facts and circumstances specific to this case, the commission finds the judge did not violate Rule 4.1(A)(3).
Attorney Tom Ryan, the Irish wolfhound of Arizona election law and the guy representing Horne-accuser, former AG employee Sarah Beattie, was critical of Judge Brnovich's appearance in the video, when I initially wrote about it.
He was equally critical of commission's findings.
"Well, it's the parent's rule of `Because I say so,'" he commented via e-mail. "In rhetoric I studied the concept of logic fallacies. This is a logic fallacy best expressed by the Latin phrase `ipse dixit,' which literally means `he himself said it.' It is an unsupported statement that rests solely on the authority of the individual who makes it. There is no authority cited for this `rule of reason' the only proof we have of its existence is that this person said it."
Ryan is a purist in such matters, and admirably so. Though I personally find Susan Brnovich's appearance in this video to be small potatoes compared to, say, the transgressions of Lester Pearce.
I also contacted Binder to see if Horne put her up to the complaint or if she did it of her own accord.
She declined to make any statements for the record.
By contrast, Mark Brnovich's campaign manager Ryan Anderson practically oozed contempt when I asked for a comment.
"We always knew this graceless and false complaint filed by Ms. Binder on behalf of the Horne campaign would be quickly dismissed," he told me, via e-mail.
"Mark and Susan Brnovich have been happily and faithfully married for over 17 years," he continued. "No one is more qualified to speak about the values of her husband. Clearly Mark's family values are something that struck a nerve with Mr. Horne and we welcome the involvement of any of the other attorney general candidate spouses to appear in future commercials."
Horne's wife of more than 40 years, Marty, tends to stay out of the limelight. So Horne may not take up Anderson's challenge anytime soon.
On the other hand, can Mark Brnovich boast a Horne-like Praetorian Guard of gals ready to play torpedo?
Gotta admit, the AG's got him there.
Got a tip for The Bastard? Send it to: Stephen Lemons.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.