Corporation Commission must adopt Judicial Code of Conduct to restore integrity SanTan Sun News

Corporation Commission must adopt Judicial Code of Conduct to restore integrity

July 10th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Corporation Commission must adopt Judicial Code of Conduct to restore integrity
Opinion
0

By Charles E. Jones

Guest Writer

Arizona’s founders created the Corporation Commission to address concerns about the influence of public utilities, to ensure protection for consumers, to provide a fair return on operational costs and infrastructure investment for telecommunications, pipelines and railways, and to guarantee reliable energy and water.

Those same concerns continue to this day and still are reflected in Article 15 of our state constitution.

While the Corporation Commission has features similar to the executive and legislative branches, the commission carries out its regulatory duties as does the judicial branch of government: hearing rate cases, weighing evidence and issuing rulings, with commissioners serving as quasi-judicial officers.

Just as impartiality is critical to the judiciary in reaching legal decisions, it also is critical when the Corporation Commission exercises its regulatory duties.

To safeguard the character of the judiciary, the Arizona Supreme Court adopted the Code of Judicial Conduct, binding on every judge in Arizona, from a Supreme Court Justice to a locally-elected Justice of the Peace.

With the fairness and impartiality of the Corporation Commission called into question, it is time to take serious steps to safeguard its character.

The Code of Judicial Conduct is a reasonable, time-tested means for protecting the integrity of the Corporation Commission when exercising its quasi-judicial role in regulating public utilities.

Rodney Glassman, an attorney and Air Force officer, who is seeking to serve as a corporation commissioner, has proposed adoption of the Code of Judicial Conduct for the Corporation Commission.

This proposal, endorsed by two of Arizona’s most well-respected prosecutors, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, merits serious consideration.

Arizona’s Code of Judicial Conduct would help corporation commissioners avoid even an appearance of conflict or impropriety when executing their regulatory duties. The code would help ensure that the regulation of public utilities is carried out with integrity and impartiality.

In fact, the preamble to the code declares: “Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives.”

Comprising four principles, the code reads:

• Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

• Canon 2: A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently and diligently.

• Canon 3: A judge shall conduct the judge’s extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with obligations of judicial office.

• Canon 4: A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity or impartiality of the judiciary.

Adopting this code to reflect the nature and work of the Corporation Commission could not help but impress upon the public servants who serve as commissioners the solemn obligation to maintain integrity.

In turn, the people of Arizona would have increased trust and confidence in the decisions made and the manner in which they are made by the Corporation Commission.

The Honorable Charles E. “Bud” Jones was as an Associate Justice on the Arizona Supreme Court from 1996 to 2002, and then Chief Justice of the court from 2002 to 2005. He may be reached at cjoneslaw@cox.net.

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