Court appointments must be disinterested

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If the issue werent so important, it would make an appropriate topic for Jay Leno to mock: Two justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court with close ties to Gov. Ernie Fletcher recuse themselves from the most important case of Fletchers political life, and Fletcher gets to name their replacements.

The case, of course, involves the state Court of Appeals decision last week that Fletchers blanket pardon of anyone and everyone involved in the on-going grand jury investigation of allegations of Merit System abuse under Fletcher does not mean the special grand jury should close up shop, issue no further indictments or a final report of its findings, as Fletchers attorneys argue.

So the case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and this week Chief Justice Joseph Lambert and Justice John Roach officially withdrew from hearing that appeal. Roach was Fletchers general counsel until Fletcher appointed him to the states highest court. Lamberts own former counsel was named to replace Roach.

But under current law, when two vacancies occur like this, the governor appoints replacements to hear and rule on the case.

Two appointments, of course, do not necessarily make a majority, but those two appointments will be suspect from the time they are made by the governor, and their ultimate votes whatever they are will be even more suspect.

Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites, one of Attorney General Greg Stumbos prosecutors in the special grand jury investigation, suggests Fletcher name qualified and disinterested replacements acceptable to both Stumbo and Fletcher.

Thats as likely to happen as Fletcher inviting Stumbo over to the Mansion for a good ol boys poker night.

There must be a way for the appointments to be made that are fair to both sides of the issue. Would Fletcher and Stumbo agree to make the choices from a list prepared by the top officials of the Kentucky Bar Association? Or that the two most recent justices of the Supreme Court sit on this all-important appeal?

Arguments have been scheduled for March 16. That means there are two and a half months to find a way out of a situation that Jay Leno would find absolutely hilarious.

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