Commentary

We need the whole truth on Montgomery and Martinez

Bill Montgomery speaks with reporters after his July 26 interview with the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments for a seat on the Arizona Supreme Court. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Earlier this month, a story broke revealing that one of the most prominent prosecutors in the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, Juan Martinez, has a record of sexual harassment extending back three decades

The fact that Martinez has sexually harassed women is not exactly news; a formal misconduct complaint filed with the State Bar in March contains allegations that Martinez recently made numerous inappropriate sexual comments and repeatedly engaged in unwanted sexual advances within his own office, all while demonstrating similar behavior toward women in the courtroom. 

But this latest story reveals that Martinez’s sexual misconduct dates back to at least 1990, when a supervisor warned him in a written reprimand that “[i]t is now time that this behavior ceases, once and for all,” according to his personnel file. And yet Martinez remained employed, with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office even rewarding him with promotion after promotion. Martinez is most certainly responsible for his own behavior – and we hope the Arizona State Bar will hold him accountable – but so, too, are institutions and leaders who allowed his disgusting conduct to go unchecked. 

That’s why in April we called for the resignation of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Then, as now, Montgomery must be held responsible for permitting Martinez to get away with a “sustained pattern of degrading and harassing women, including court reporters, defense counsel, and law clerks,” and for protecting Martinez from scrutiny or any real consequences. 

Although Montgomery bristled at the notion that he’s enabled Martinez, there is no dispute that, even after his own internal investigation confirmed a long and persistent pattern of misconduct, he left Martinez in a position of extraordinary power. The reprimand, mandatory training, and small financial penalty Montgomery imposed on Martinez are hardly sufficient to address a serial sexual predator in the office. 

And now we know that Montgomery chose this weak response – chose to protect a powerful man over the women in the County Attorney’s office and the entire justice system – despite a written record that Martinez’s misconduct goes back 30 years. Are we to conclude that he never reviewed Martinez’s personnel file? Was he aware of the written reprimand but ignored it? 

We don’t know because Montgomery refuses to answer any questions about it. 

But with Montgomery on the shortlist for appointment to the Arizona Supreme Court, the stakes are even higher now. Our community’s right to transparency about what Montgomery knew and when he knew it is critically important. 

Had the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which screens applicants for vacant Supreme Court seats, been aware of this information three weeks ago, it could have asked Montgomery these questions directly. Surely, that would have been a critical line of inquiry. 

As many have noted, Montgomery is already the most controversial and politically divisive candidate under consideration to our highest court. He has previously been sued for his lack of transparency, and has a record of blocking disclosure of important information to the public

For a position that requires the utmost public trust and integrity, Montgomery has not proven himself qualified. 

Martinez will face a disciplinary hearing later this month before the State Bar. The women he marginalized and harmed with his behavior will have a chance to speak out. But we ask again: Who will hold his enablers accountable?

We urge Governor Ducey to take this selection seriously and insist upon full transparency, disclosure, and information to the public that the Supreme Court is supposed to serve.

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