On November 6th, Arizona citizens will be voting on Proposition 115, which aims to modify Arizona’s merit selection system by giving the governor more power over the judicial nomination process. Justice Ruth V. McGregor and Judge James A. Soto warn against this ballot proposition, stating that it will “undermine the present merit-selection system for selecting judges and let politicians control the judicial selection process.”
Under the current process, a fifteen-member judicial nomination committee reviews applicants. The governor appoints 10 non-lawyer members and the state bar association nominates five lawyers for appointment. Under Proposition 115, the governor would appoint 14 members: 10 non-lawyers and four lawyers. The state bar association would only be able to pick one lawyer to be on the judicial nomination committee.
Justice McGregor and Judge Soto argue that this transfer of committee appointment authority “give[s] too much power to the governor and Legislature” and may allow political connections to take precedence over qualifications in a governor’s appointments. Justice McGregor and Judge Soto state that Proposition 115 would threaten judicial independence and stress the importance of having judges who are “knowledgeable, bright, and fair-minded persons that are not beholden to anyone or any group and who will apply the law without regard to how popular or unpopular their decisions might be.” They further emphasize that judges “should be selected based upon their competence, experience, and legal ability, and not upon political considerations.”