Two bad appointments

Published:

Because Gov. Ernie Fletcher has been cut on twice in the last two weeks, given oxygen and nourishment through tubes and generally made miserable because of a gallstone, were going to assume he wasnt entirely himself when he made two appointments as special justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court Friday.

The appointments were necessary because Chief Justice Joseph Lambert and Justice John Roach recused themselves from hearing Fletchers appeal of a Court of Appeals ruling that the governors blanket pardon of indicted members of his administration does not shut down the special grand jury investigating allegations of illegal personnel actions.

Fletcher had all sort of options at his disposal in naming the two special justices.

He could have appointed the deans of two of the states three law schools.

He could have asked the Kentucky Bar Association for a list of recommendations from which he could choose.

He could have named retired Supreme Court justices to hear the case.

If he had opted for any of those choices, we would be applauding his obvious effort to be fair in a difficult situation.

Instead Fletcher appointed two of his political contributors and supporters, both of whom owe him something.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey T. Burnette of Mount Vernon contributed $1,500 to Fletchers 2003 campaign and the next year Fletcher appointed Burnette circuit judge for Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties.

Lexington attorney Ronald L. Green contributed $2,800 to Fletchers congressional campaigns and Greens law firm has two state contracts for legal services worth $50,000 each that Fletcher approved.

Burnette and Green very well may go out of their way to give fair consideration to both sides in the appeal, but a dark shadow still will hang over the Supreme Court because of their ties to Fletcher.

Already, Attorney General Greg Stumbo has called on the two to step aside, and a complaint was filed Monday with the Judicial Conduct Commission asking that Burnette and Green be removed forcibly.

At a time when Fletcher was miserable and medicated, his advisors either stumbled badly once again, or they cynically dont care about the appearance of the appointments, the reputation of the states highest court and the resulting political damage to the governor himself.

In either case, it is Fletchers responsibility to set things right.

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