Recently, I wrote about Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s appearance before the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Some critics have suggested that Montgomery might not have the temperament for a position on the Arizona Supreme Court, so I thought I should see for myself. As I wrote, I came away with the opposite view: in hearing about his background and resume, learning about his judicial philosophy, and seeing the aplomb with which he handled some difficult questions, it become increasingly hard for me to imagine many people I’ve seen with a better temperament for a judicial position.
Montgomery’s recent appearance on John Hook’s Newsmaker Saturday (video below) reinforced that view. I derived the unmistakable perception of a man who is deeply committed to justice—both as an essential human value and as a process.
Justice, properly understood, is both: it is a process, a means by which we reach a decision we hope will reflect justice as a value. Listening to Montgomery speak, a reverence for the law, and a desire to do right by it, comes through loud and clear.
When he addresses the issue of distracted drivers, we do not hear a zealot looking to bring down the sword of righteous vengeance. Rather, we hear a desire to balance the need for public safety with the rights of the accused. We hear the same when he speaks on the controversial subject of the death penalty: not the defensiveness of an ideologue, but the measured view of someone with a clear desire to get the facts right in every case. Exactly what we want in someone charged with applying—or interpreting—the law. (Remember, the death penalty is the law in AZ. It is not the job of the judicial branch to make laws—just to interpret and apply them as fairly as possible.)
These same traits are in evidence throughout the rest of the interview. When taking the measure of a man—as a potential friend, employee, representative, or for any other purpose—impressions and instincts matter. When I actually listen to Montgomery speak (as opposed to just hearing what some say about him), my impression is decidedly positive. Listen and see what you think:
(I also must say that I came away from this interview with an increased regard for John Hook. I think that he conducts an interview that is challenging, illuminating, and fair.)