Gavel Grab

Arizona Proposition 115: ‘More is Better’ with Judicial Selection

Proposition 115 to alter Arizona’s merit-based selection system for picking judges would allow the governor to choose among more judicial nominees and give the governor more power over judicial nominating commissions.

If voters approve it, the measure would increase the number of nominees chosen by a screening commission and submitted to the governor from three to at least eight, an Arizona Capitol Times article says.

The change would apply to the merit-based system in place for choosing judges for the state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and the trial courts in two of the state’s largest counties.

David Berman, senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, says that Proposition 115 arose from a compromise over previous legislation that would have eliminated merit selection in Arizona.

“There have been a lot of people in the Legislature who feel the judges have been too liberal,” Berman said.

Peter Gentala, counsel to the Republican majority in the Arizona House of Representatives, says that the proposal will result in more qualified applicants applying for a judgeship.

Opponents of 115 argue that the measure will only serve to politicize the courts, and that Arizona’s existing judicial selection system is viewed as one of the nation’s finest.

Former State Bar president Mark Harrison says that “[u]nder Proposition 115, Sandra Day O’Connor would not have gotten to the Supreme Court of the United States.” He noted that the proposal would allow all judicial nominees to belong to one political party; O’Connor, a Republican, was named to the Arizona Court of Appeals by a Democratic governor. Harrison is Justice at Stake’s board chairman.

To learn more about the debate over the proposal, see Gavel Grab.

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