ANALYSIS BY LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Proposition 115 would amend the Arizona Constitution to make the following changes relating to the selection and retention of state judges and justices:
1. The terms of state Superior Court judges would be extended from four years to eight years; the terms of state Court of Appeals judges and state Supreme Court justices would be extended from six years to eight years.
2. The mandatory retirement age for state judges and justices would be extended from seventy to seventy-five.
3. The appointment authority for the five attorney members of each commission that nominates applicants to fill judicial vacancies would be amended as follows:
(a) The Governor would appoint four attorneys to each nominating commission and the president of the State Bar of Arizona would appoint one attorney to each nominating commission. Currently, the State Bar of Arizona nominates and the Governor appoints all five attorney members of each commission.
b) The five attorney members would be required to have resided in and been licensed to practice law for ten years in Arizona and must not have any formal complaints or sanctions with the State Bar of Arizona. Currently, the attorney members must have resided in and been licensed to practice law for five years in Arizona.
4. The minimum number of judicial nominees to be submitted by a nominating commission to the Governor for a judicial vacancy would be increased from three to eight, and the limitations on the number of nominees from a particular political party would be repealed. An applicant who receives a majority vote for nomination shall be nominated for the vacancy. By a two-thirds vote, a nominating commission may reject an applicant and submit fewer than eight nominees for a judicial vacancy.
5. If more than one vacancy exists in the same court at the same time, the nominating commission would be required to submit at least six judicial nominees for each vacancy, and could not submit the same nominee for more than one vacancy. The Governor would be allowed to appoint any of the nominees submitted for any of the vacancies in that court.
6. The Supreme Court would be required to make opinions and orders of state judges and justices available electronically on the Supreme Court website, unless the opinion or order is sealed or confidential pursuant to law.
7. Sixty days before the general election for the retention of state judges and justices, a joint legislative committee would be authorized to meet and take testimony on the state judges and justices who are up for retention. A copy of the judicial performance review of each state judge or justice that is conducted under current law would be required to be transmitted to the Legislature prior to that meeting.
ARGUMENTS “FOR” PROPOSITION 115
Prop. 115 is a consensus measure that strengthens Arizona’s method of selecting and retaining judges.
The State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Judicial Council, the Arizona Judges Association, and the Arizona Legislature worked together to craft Prop. 115.
Prop. 115 is designed to make the judicial nomination process turn on the individual merit of the candidates. Ensuring that each and every candidate will be considered on the basis of merit means Arizona will continue to have excellent candidates apply to be judges.
Prop. 115 also extends the terms of sitting judges, and allows judges to serve to the age of 75. Currently, all judges in Arizona must retire at the age of 70. That’s way too early. In fact, four of the nine Justices on the United States Supreme Court are already older than 70. Arizona will be well served by allowing judges to serve with excellence beyond the age 70.
Finally, Prop. 115 gives voters more information about the judges that are on the ballot. Everybody wins when voters are equipped with information.
To learn more about Prop. 115 please visit: www.YesOnProp115.com .
Eddie Farnsworth, State Representative, Chairman, Making Merit Selection Stronger, Yes on Prop. 115, Chairman, Judiciary Committee, Arizona House of Representatives, Gilbert
State Bar of Arizona’s Ballot Pamphlet Statement in Support of Proposition 115
Fair and impartial courts are necessary to assure liberty and justice for all. Making sure that we have the best judges is a critical part of keeping our courts fair and our scales of justice balanced. In Arizona, judges for superior court are selected through a system that uses elections in smaller counties (where people tend to know the candidates well) and a non-partisan Merit Selection System for larger counties, including Maricopa, Pima and Pinal. Judges for the Supreme Court, as well as the Court of Appeals, also are appointed through Merit Selection.
Because of Arizona’s Merit Selection system our courts are fair and impartial. Our merit selected judges are among the most highly regarded in the United States and around the world.
Since the current Merit Selection system is not broken, the question has arisen: why should we amend our State Constitution to fix it? No system is perfect. There are improvements that could be made. Some provisions of Proposition 115 would make improvements. The retirement age for judges would be increased from 70 to 75, and the term between judicial retention elections would be increased to eight years (from the current four years). Also, while the State Bar would no longer make nominations to the Governor for all attorney members of the Commissions, the State Bar would be given direct authority to select one of the 15 members of each Merit Selection Commission.
In an effort to protect Merit Selection, the State Bar of Arizona supports Proposition 115.
Amelia Craig Cramer, President, State Bar of Arizona, Tucson
John F. Phelps, Executive Director, State Bar of Arizona, Phoenix
The Arizona Judges Association supports a YES vote on Proposition 115. This proposition is a compromise which preserves the essence of Arizona’s Merit Selection and Tenure system for appellate judges and for superior court judges in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties.
Arizona’s system of selecting judges has led to a judiciary which is nationally recognized for its excellence. Proposition 115 preserves judicial independence and impartiality while insuring accountability through a Judicial Performance Review System.
Among the benefits of this proposal is the increase of the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 years of age to 75 years of age.
The Arizona Judges Association joins with the Arizona Judicial Council, the Arizona Bar Association and the Center for Arizona Policy in urging a YES vote on Proposition 115.
Kyle Bryson, President, Arizona Judges Association, Tucson
David Cunanan, Immediate Past President, Arizona Judges Association, Phoenix
Pete Dunn, Esq., Counsel to Arizona Judges Association, Peoria
With their rulings and decisions, judges have a direct impact on the lives of Arizonans. For this reason, it is important that the Governor be presented with as many qualified applicants as possible to pick from in making judicial appointments. Similarly, it is critical that voters have adequate access to judges’ decisions and performance ratings in order to make an educated decision about which judges to retain at election.
Proposition 115 accomplishes three important reforms to Arizona’s judicial nomination process. First, it requires more choices and greater transparency regarding the selection and retention of appointed judges. Because the judiciary is the least directly accountable branch of government, it is essential that as many qualified individuals as possible be presented to the Governor for consideration; and you, the voters, should be provided with as much information as possible about those judges in advance of retention elections. Second, it minimizes the influence of the State Bar of Arizona in selecting the lawyer members of the judicial nominating commissions. Third, the retirement age for judges will be increased from 70 to 75, allowing seasoned and experienced judges to remain on the bench and avoid forced retirement.
Proposition 115 is a common sense reform measure jointly supported by the Arizona Judicial Council, the Arizona Legislature, and the State Bar of Arizona. Please add your vote to the diverse list of supporters and make the existing judicial selection and retention process more transparent and effective.
I encourage you to vote YES on Proposition 115.
Jan Brewer, Governor, Phoenix
Arizona’s merit selection system for appointing judges in urban counties is touted as one of the best systems in the country. The United States Chamber of Commerce named it a “best practice” in 2010.
Arizona’s merit selection commissions operate transparently, by doing business in public meetings, posting applications for all candidates online, and soliciting comments from the public. Merit commissions check references and screen candidates extensively before nominating applicants to the Governor for appointment. Once appointed by the Governor, merit-selected judges must go through periodic judicial performance evaluations and stand for retention elections.
As with any system, however, there may be room for improvement. Proposition 115 is the result of a compromise that was reached after extensive negotiations among the Governor’s office, the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives and then-President of the Senate, the State Bar of Arizona’s Board of Governors, the Judges Association, and the Arizona Judicial Council.
Changes to the system contained in Proposition 115 will extend the terms of judges to eight years, which will provide greater independence for judges; raise the retirement age of judges to 75, permitting experienced judges to remain on the bench longer; allow the judicial nominating commissions greater flexibility when deciding which applicants to forward to the Governor by not constraining the choices by political party; give the Governor more choices by requiring the commissions to send more names to the Governor for consideration; and provide the State Bar President the unfettered discretion to appoint a representative to sit on each commission.
It is for these reasons that, on balance, the Arizona Judicial Council, the administrative policy board of the Arizona Judicial Branch, has voted to support this measure.
Rebecca White Berch, Chairperson, Arizona Judicial Council, Phoenix
David K. Byers, Council Member, Arizona Judicial Council, Phoenix
Judicial integrity is important to me, and that’s why I support Proposition 115. In Arizona’s largest counties, a system based on merit is used to select superior court judges. Appellate judges go through a similar process aimed at insuring quality for our higher court judges. This system has been in place since 1974, and hasn’t been updated for 20 years. Prop 115 accomplishes a much-needed update of the judicial selection process so that it can better meet the needs of Arizona citizens today.
First and foremost, Prop 115 gives more applicants an opportunity to be considered for judgeships. Currently, there could be dozens of applicants for a single position, yet only 3 names would have to be forwarded to the Governor for consideration. This is an unreasonably low number, and could deter very qualified people from even applying. Prop 115 fixes this problem by increasing the minimum number to 8, giving more applicants an opportunity to be considered.
Prop 115 increases the qualifications for attorney members of nominating commissions; more qualified people screening applicants for judgeships just makes sense. It also requires judicial opinions to be published online, increasing transparency and accountability to the public.
Prop 115 recognizes the value of seasoned jurists by raising the retirement age to 75 years old, instead of the current 70. Judges will have longer terms in office, allowing them to focus on cases in front of them, not elections.
Prop 115 was crafted through a stakeholder process that included legislators, the Center for Arizona Policy, the Arizona Judicial Council, the Arizona State Bar and the Arizona Judges Association. It is a common-sense update to our current judicial merit selection system, I urge you to vote “yes” on Prop 115.
Steve Pierce, President of the Arizona State Senate, Phoenix
Please vote YES to support improvements to our merit selection system.
This merit selection improvement proposal is a well thought out compromise that will bring more openness and accountability to our judicial selection and retention process. It will give the people greater access than ever before to decisions written by our courts of record.
The Governor will have more choices to pick and that will result in more qualified applicants offering themselves to be considered. And the Governor as a consequence will also be more accountable to the people for the appointments that are made.
The people should have more information about the decisions of our courts of record and this amendment will further the goal of transparency by requiring that decisions be published in a more accessible manner.
All these good things are accomplished within the merit selection system. Please support the sensible and fair improvement to our current law.
Please vote YES.
Steve Twist, Scottsdale
Vote “Yes” on Proposition 115! This measure is a step forward to improve the accountability and transparency of how judges are selected in Arizona.
It’s important to note that the measure is supported by judges and attorneys. Proposition 115 is a consensus measure agreed to by judges at every level, the State Bar of Arizona, and legislators from both major political parties. As an attorney and longtime advocate of judicial reform, I support Proposition 115 because it offers reasonable and necessary changes to the current system.
Proposition 115 improves judicial selection by making these needed changes:
– Removes the requirement that the judicial nominees be selected according to party affiliation. Party affiliation should not be a factor in evaluating the qualifications of judges. This requirement has often resulted in limiting the number of qualified individuals who apply for and who are nominated for judicial positions.
– Increases the number of qualified, meritorious judicial nominees sent to the Governor. The current system, whereby the selection commissions often limit the number of nominees to three, unnecessarily limits the nominees available to the Governor who is duly elected by the people. Using commissions to limit those they deem “meritorious” is one of the biggest concerns about the current system. Proposition 115 fixes this issue.
-Expands the process for nominating attorney members to serve on the commission thereby making the process more accountable to the people.
Whether you favor the current merit selection process, election of judges, or a different federal model to select judges, I urge you to vote YES on 115. For more information on judicial selection in Arizona, visit azvoterguide.com.
Cathi Herrod, Esq., President, Center for Arizona Policy, Phoenix
When you vote on judges, how do you know if the judges on the ballot have done a good job? Prop. 115 gives you more information about how the judges perform in office so you can make an informed decision when you cast your vote.
As for selecting new judges, competition produces excellence. Prop. 115 improves our system of selecting judges because it presents the Governor with multiple qualified candidates for each appointment. Choosing the men and women who preside in our courts of law is a difficult and important task. The more qualified candidates sent to the Governor the better.
Prop. 115 makes “merit selection” stronger. That is why the State Bar of Arizona, Arizona Judges Association, and the Arizona Judicial Council have endorsed Prop. 115.
Please join me in voting YES on Prop. 115.
Andy M. Tobin, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Paulden
Courts of law play an important role in our constitutional system of government. Judges do more than just decide legal disputes between parties. They rule on the constitutionality of the laws your elected representatives enact. And they are sometimes called upon to enforce the separation of powers mandated by our Constitution.
Clearly our method of selecting and retaining judges is very important. That’s why when I was Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives I worked closely with The Arizona Judges Association, the Arizona Judicial Council, the State Bar of Arizona, and other stakeholders, to improve and strengthen the “merit selection” system. Prop. 115 is the result of that cooperative effort. And I’m deeply grateful to all the participants.
Prop. 115 improves the selection process to make sure that each and every judicial vacancy is filled based on merit, not politics. Prop. 115 also empowers you as a voter by giving you more information on the judges on the ballot.
Please consider voting yes of Prop. 115. For more information please visit www.yesonprop115.com.
Kirk Adams, Congressional Candidate, former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Mesa