Court rules Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs broke the law in order to empower her henchmen

News & Politics

Just months after Republicans expressed concern over Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ apparent willingness to “circumvent the laws of this state, the Democratic governor realized their fears, violating the law and unilaterally appointing 13 of her henchmen to lead state agencies.

A judge said as much in his Wednesday ruling, indicating that when Hobbs failed to legally get her way, she elected instead to run roughshod over Arizona law.

Frustrated by checks and balances

By law, the governor’s Cabinet nominees can only be appointed with the consent of the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate.

The Senate’s Committee on Director Nominations, led by state Sen. Jake Hoffman (R) and established last year to “evaluate executive nominations,” grilled 11 of Hobbs’ 22 nominees, approved seven, and rejected a handful, including
pandemic shutdown champion Theresa Cullen.

Hoffman indicated in February 2023, “Now, make no mistake, this is a check on executive authority, but that is exactly what the legislature is supposed to do,”
reported the Arizona Mirror.

‘Hobbs is the only person to blame for her nominees struggling to succeed under actual due diligence.’

Unwilling to put up with scrutiny from a co-equal branch of government, Hobbs withdrew her agency director nominations last fall, including her partisan nominees for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Department of Child Safety, the Department of Housing, the Department of Gaming, and the Department of Administration.

Hoffman called the move a “temper tantrum,”
suggesting in a statement that “Hobbs is the only person to blame for her nominees struggling to succeed under actual due diligence.”

Hobbs
told the president of the Arizona Senate, Warren Petersen (R), in a Sept. 25, 2023, letter that it had “become apparent over the past nine months that the Senate’s process for reviewing and confirming agency director nominees has devolved into a sad display of partisan obstructionism.”

Hobbs accused Petersen and his peers of engaging in a “political circus” and demonstrating an unwillingness to “carry out a valid process.”

The Democrat then proceeded to engage in an invalid process all her own.

Circumventing the law

Upon withdrawing her 13 nominees, Hobbs branded those lawmakers who would dare evaluate her nominees as “extremists” and
noted on X that she aimed to “pursue other lawful means of ensuring the state government can work for Arizonans.”

‘This move by the Executive Branch showcases another prime example of an elected official who believes they’re above the law.’

The Democratic governor proceeded to nominate Ben Henderson to serve as interim director of 12 of the 13 agencies at issue for the purpose of enabling herself to appoint the withdrawn nominees as executive deputy directors of the agencies. Hobbs then instructed Henderson to “ratify and confirm” the deputies prior to resigning as interim director for each agency.

Hobbs made her 13 appointments on Sept. 25, 2023, and all were installed as de facto agency heads.

Petersen, who ultimately sued Hobbs over the scheme, said in a statement, “This move by the Executive Branch showcases another prime example of an elected official who believes they’re above the law and will go to extreme measures to bypass the requirements of the law when they don’t get their way,” reported the Arizona Mirror.

‘The Governor willfully circumvented that statutory process.’

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) meanwhile defended Hobbs’ play,
stating that she was “well within her right to move forward with other legal means of keeping state government functioning and working for the people or Arizona.”

“No law prohibits the Governor from withdrawing a person’s nomination for an agency director and re-appointing him or her as a deputy director of that agency,” added Mayes.

Judge Scott A. Blaney of the Maricopa County Superior Court was evidently of a different mind.

Hobbs violated Arizona law

In his
Wednesday ruling, Judge Blaney reiterated that the law requires that the appointment of a director for each of the 13 agencies requires the consent of the state Senate — something Hobbs did not bother with.

“The Governor willfully circumvented that statutory process and eliminated the Legislative branch from its oversight role,” wrote Blaney.

Blaney found that “these ‘Executive Deputy Directors’ are de facto directors — unilaterally appointed to their leadership positions without Senate oversight in violation of Arizona law.”

The court acknowledged that the deputy directors enjoy “all the powers and authorities that the agencies’ properly appointed directors would have,” have identical reporting chains, and “serve as the leaders of their respective agencies indefinitely at the pleasure of the Governor.”

Extra to acknowledging that the Democratic governor made a mockery of the law, Blaney declared that state law still requires the governor to fill the director position lawfully, meaning a return to the senatorial confirmation process.

A separate evidentiary hearing will be scheduled next month or in August to further address the matter of Hobbs’ illegitimate agency directors.

State Sen. Hoffman
said in a statement in the wake of Hobbs’ judicial rebuke, “Today Judge Blaney correctly slapped Katie Hobbs’ illegal attempt to circumvent the constitutional check and balance of the senate confirmation process.”

“I look forward to continuing our confirmation hearings in the near future now that much needed clarity on the law has been provided by the courts to Hobbs and her staff,” continued Hoffman. “If Katie wishes to continue her petulant insults against me and to play petty political games, so be it; but I’m going to continue faithfully fulfilling my duty to the people of this great state to ensure that we have a sane government that works for every Arizonan.”

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