Judicial screening commissioner: Identity politics fuels critics of ‘white, Christian, cisgendered’ Montgomery

Bill Montgomery and Kathryn Townsend. Photos by Gage Skidmore/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and Facebook

One of the newest members of the commission that vets Arizona Supreme Court candidates said that she believes much of the opposition to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s candidacy is due to the fact he’s a “conservative, white, Christian, cisgendered, heterosexual male.”

Kathryn Townsend, whom Gov. Doug Ducey appointed this year to the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, made the comments on Friday as the panel was discussing its views on the candidates for the Supreme Court vacancy opened up by the retirement of Chief Justice Scott Bales.

Townsend noted that Mongtomery’s candidacy has been controversial, and that the commission has received many letters both for against him. She said she read the comments, reached out to many people, watched videos of news reports and legislative hearings, and read more than 1,000 pages of documents in an attempt to find the truth about the criticism of the county attorney.

What made things difficult, she said, is that for every criticism of Montgomery, there was a supporter to refute the claims against him. While some people said that, as members of minority communities, they found his candidacy concerning, others said as members of minority groups they thought he would be a great justice, she said. 

And while some argued that Mongtomery doesn’t care about the rights of people accused of crimes, she said others said he cared a great deal.

One person Townsend spoke to said many of Montgomery’s opponents don’t really know him and are only responding to a caricature of him, she said. Townsend said she believes that’s true. And she reached her own conclusion about the people opposed to Montgomery’s conclusion as well.

“I think a lot of the people who don’t like his candidacy, frankly, and I know this isn’t politically correct but I’ll say it anyway, don’t like him because he is a conservative, white, Christian, cisgendered, heterosexual male,” Townsend said. “You can look at the letters that we’ve got and see that. We’ve literally got people who say he shouldn’t be on the court because he’s a conservative, he shouldn’t be on the court because of his worldview.”

And while some people have told the commission that people will question the Supreme Court’s fairness if Montgomery becomes a justice, Townsend said if the commission doesn’t pick him as one of its nominees for the seat, “there are going to be people who think that didn’t happen because he didn’t have the right identity politics. And that’s troubling.”

The commission must send at least three candidates to Ducey, who will decide which nominee will join the Supreme Court. The candidates must not all be from the same political party.

Montgomery didn’t make the cut in March, when the commission voted 5-7 on his nomination. Since then, Ducey has replaced at least two commissioners who voted against him. Townsend, an independent who was previously registered to vote as a Republican.

The panel will interview Montgomery Friday afternoon and will decide which candidates to forward to Ducey by the end of the day.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”


    • You imply, as Townsend baldly said, that criticism of Bill Montgomery is undue, based on nothing but aversion to his religiosity (and being white [?], according to Townsend, bizarrely enough).

      Nonsense. Montgomery has a track record of violating both the Arizona and federal Constitutions, wasting public resources so he fulfill his grandiosity, and causing real harm to Maricopa County’s gay and lesbian community.

      Montgomery’s religious beliefs are not the problem — it’s that Montgomery is “first and foremost a Christian” when he should first and foremost an American.

      Montgomery has been publicly unwilling to suppress his irrational belief that gays are an abomination and forgets that “a government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some” (Justice Blackmun).

  1. She plays identity politics with her conclusion, based on letters criticizing Montgomery for his policies and actions. In fat, not a single letter focuses or even mentions the things Townsend claims are the basis for opposition to Montgomery.

    Shame on her.

    • After years of controversy in the failed and corrupt Maricopa County Attorneys Office following disgraced and disbarred Andrew Thomas and his “troika”, one would have expected Bill Montgomery to clean up the corruption (well known in the legal community for years) in this county prosecutors’ office.

      DA/prosecutor/politician Bill Montgomery failed to address the over 200,000 felony cases Andrew Thomas bragged about in his failed run for state AG (in his one term in office, 2005-2010): ignoring wrongful convictions, abuse of power, prosecutorial malfeasance and official misconduct, overzealous prosecution, over-charging, over-sentencing, and incompetence.

      Instead, it appears, DA/Bill Montgomery/prosecutor/politician, chose to look the other way on MCAO Thomas 200,000 felony cases and bury them in Arizona’s Pandora’s Box, while he moves on and up.

      This damage by the DA/County Attorneys Office will last for generations for the lives destroyed in their “system”, that has also wasted millions of taxpayers $$$’s, unnecessarily. This legacy is a stain on Arizona’s justice system and castes doubt on its integrity.


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