Opinion: What the Arizona Legislature Has Taken From Us

23 June 2019   Geoffrey Parker
Job applicants for a school district position must now “self-reveal”.

In Arizona we have seen the decline of liberty. A “highlight” of Arizona’s 2019 legislative session rolls back foundational protections. In our legal system, we thought we were entitled to due process, are innocent until proven guilty, and have a right against self-incrimination.

Now, in Arizona that is less true. Job applicants for a school district have had to reveal if they’ve had a conviction for such crimes as sexual assault. That’s the law as it should be.

But now, by revising the law, the Arizona code is now anathema to liberty. Applicants must now also self-reveal if they have ever even had such a charge “that has been vacated, set aside or expunged.”

Changing Section 15-512, paragraph D, Arizona Revised Statutes to add "including a charge or conviction that has been vacated, set aside or expunged” is a direct affront to constitutional due process.

This change acts to short circuit, or deny, due-process protections. The law now compels an applicant to accept the consequences of conviction, by effectively testifying against himself or herself, and deny the right of an assumption of innocence without actual conviction especially when only a "charge" is, or was, in view.

The reality of charges against parties falsely identified, weren't present, over stated, or falsely charged are legion. Even the Boston Globe in an article leaning forward to believe accusers during the Kavanagh hearings rightly stated the obvious that "false accusations do in fact happen."

We have lost sight of the reason why courts may vacate, set aside or expunge both charges and convictions . . . when charges were wrong and when convictions are overturned, we must understand they represented bearing false witness against the accused. This is justice. But outing such history is the opposite.

Now this law will compel hiring authorities to deny jobs to the innocent, out of all caution, and damage reputations indefinitely. Surely this will not remain limited to schools. All this is to be without trial or the ability to see evidence, confront accusers, and so on.

With this one act, several millennia of the tradition and practice of due process is set aside. We know its origins go back even to biblical scripture. While it is seldom credited, as stated by Richard H. Hiers, University of Florida Levin College of Law, the subject of biblical due process is well established even though the term "due process" is not, of course, a term found in biblical texts. He cites pointers in scripture that are clear.

The concept became more developed and memorialized in the Magna Carta of 1215 and is today a gift our founders in the Bill of Rights. It was the wisdom of our founders to establish the entire judicial branch of government that, in part, insures our due-process protections today grounded in this revered pillar of Western Civilization.

But in this act, Arizona dismisses this history, our founding documents, and the courts, ignoring their decisions. It replaces due process with the administrative state by demanding that those charged incriminate themselves, and accept life-long damage to family and career by making the existence of charges become the equivalent of conviction substituting trial by jury. By consequence, decisions of the courts, grounded in due process, are, by the Arizona law of the land, no longer to be honored.

So, in one act, in Arizona you are guilty until proven innocent, you will forever be guilty despite court outcomes, and the Bill of Rights is dismissed. Laws, good and bad, have consequences. False, scurrilous, salacious charges (and overturned convictions) for acts that never occurred are now memorialized thereby ruining families, careers, and wrongly denying the pursuit of happiness forever.

Children are not the only ones with rights. When Sen. Heather Carter (LD-15), said "providing legal relief to victims is too important to allow business as usual" . . . at first blush, this may not seem like the dangerous statement that it is. Yet when "business as usual" is a pejorative against our “usual” constitutional rights to due process, we are turning the system upside down.

We can protect children without cashiering our Constitution. Our children become adult citizens who are entitled to live their lives in a land where protections of the founders, defended by the lives and blood of veterans, and affirmed in our Constitution, must not be denied them and their families.

How did this happen? Only your representatives can explain. They must speak for themselves. This change flew through the legislature without one, not one, opposing vote. No one stood up for the Constitution. Ask them, please, “What were you thinking?”



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