Arizona's governor, attorney general clash

By Chris Rizo | Apr 7, 2009

Terry Goddard (D)

Jan Brewer (R)

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Legal Newsline)- Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has put the state's Democratic attorney general on notice: Don't overstep your legal boundaries.

A row erupted between the governor and Attorney General Terry Goddard, the state's chief legal officer, over how to proceed with a U.S. Supreme Court case over school funding for English-learner programs.

Tensions tightened after Goddard balked at the governor's request that he file an amicus brief with the high court, outlining the state's support for a 2006 state law on funding programs to help students learn English.

In a March 31 letter, the governor took the attorney general to task.

"If you continue to insist that you alone speak for the state of Arizona in litigation, then I will pursue legislation that will require you to act within the scope of your constitutional authority and to refrain from exercising powers not lawfully yours in future litigation involving the state," Brewer wrote.

For his part, Goddard has argued that since the governor is not a party to the lawsuit so she has no authority to decide the state's legal strategy.

In a letter, Goddard said that state law "makes it clear" that the attorney general is responsible for representing the state and "rendering such legal services as the state requires, which includes determining the appropriate legal position to be taken on behalf of our state."

In her letter, Brewer noted that previously Goddard said that former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano outlined the state's legal position.
"I fear that politics may be at play," Brewer quipped in her letter.

Brewer and Goddard are both widely considered to be possible gubernatorial candidates in 2010. Brewer became governor in January, after Napolitano, a Democrat, became U.S. secretary of homeland security for the Obama administration.

The case emerged after state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and Republican legislative leaders appealed a lower court decision that bars enforcement of the English learner law. The statute established a process for school districts to get state funding for English-learner programs.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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