Gavel Grab

Arizonan Has Unusual Retention Election Fight for High Court

A state Supreme Court retention (yes-or-no) election is making headlines in still another state, Arizona. Incumbent Justice John Pelander has set up a campaign committee to defend against a GOP and tea party effort to unseat him. Justice Pelander is a Republican.

According to an Arizona Republic article, campaign literature and online posts urge a “no” vote on retaining Justice Pelander over his joining a Supreme Court ruling in September. The ruling permitted Proposition 121, an initiative that would eliminate the two-party primary system, to appear before voters on next month’s ballot.

“I’m concerned on two fronts,” Justice Pelander said. “The Supreme Court ruling in this case is being mischaracterized. So, I view it not only as a personal attack on me as the only (Supreme Court) judge on the retention ballot, but also as an affront to the integrity of the court.”

He also said he didn’t know of other times in the past four decades when an Arizona justice established a political committee in a retention election.

Lawyers Mark Harrison and Paul Eckstein have established an independent expenditure committee, called “Save Our Judges,” in a counter-offensive. Harrison is chairman of the Justice at Stake board of directors.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who appointed Justice Pelander to the Supreme Court, “has not agreed with every decision he has made, but she continues to believe he is impartial and guided by the law and Constitution in his rulings,” Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said. Brewer is a Republican.

Some of the ouster advocates have backed a ballot initiative to alter Arizona’s merit-based selection system for choosing judges (see Gavel Grab). To read about high-profile anti-retention efforts in other states, click here to read about Florida and click here to read about Iowa.

Justice at Stake takes no position in judicial election contests, including retention elections.


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