Monday, February 27, 2006
Under Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky Becomes Laughingstock. I wish were were still just known for being barefoot and toothless.
Governor Names Justices for Own Case
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FRANKFORT, Ky., Feb. 25 (AP) — In an odd twist to the state hiring scandal, Gov. Ernie Fletcher appointed two special State Supreme Court justices on Friday to help decide whether a grand jury can continue issuing indictments against members of his administration.
The appointees will fill in temporarily for two justices who recused themselves in December. Kentucky's Constitution says it is up to the governor to fill any vacancies on the seven-member court when two or more justices have declined to sit for a particular case.
The grand jury, impaneled by Attorney General Greg D. Stumbo, a Democrat, has been investigating whether administration officials broke state law by basing personnel decisions on political considerations instead of candidates' qualifications.
"It is unprecedented for the governor's office to choose the judges in its own case," Mr. Stumbo said in a statement. "All parties should disclose any prior contacts with the special justices."
In a news release, an aide to Mr. Fletcher, Edwin Orange, said the two special justices, Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette of Circuit Court and Ronald Green, a lawyer, "represent the finest traditions of legal service, and their devotion to fair application of the law is beyond reproach."
Thirteen current and former members of the Fletcher administration and associates have been indicted on misdemeanor charges. Mr. Fletcher, a Republican, has issued a blanket pardon for everyone indicted in the case. That pardon extends to anyone who may be indicted, except himself.
Mr. Fletcher is hospitalized, recovering from surgery Feb. 14 to remove his gallbladder. A top aide said the governor was put on a feeding tube on Thursday as an "alternative method of nutrition" to let an inflamed pancreas rest.
The State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the hiring case on March 16. Until then, any indictments from a special grand jury have been ordered to be placed under seal, and the panel has been ordered not to release a final report.
In December, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rejected a move by the governor's lawyers to effectively shut down the grand jury, which has been investigating his administration since June.