Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
If you are a citizen who is concerned about the independence of the judiciary and attempts by extremists to undermine the Judicial Merit Selection System and to politicize the selection of judges in Arizona, you will want to attend the Pima County Democratic Party Nucleus Club meeting this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Viscount Suite Hotel, 4855 E. Broadway Blvd. in Tucson.
The featured speaker is retired Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman, who will speak against Prop. 115 on the topic: ”Is our judicial system becoming over-politicized?”
I posted about Chief Justice Feldman's opposition to Prop. 115 earlier this year when it was still working its way through the judiciary committees of the Legislature. Arizona's Judicial Merit Selection System Threatened.
Prop. 115 represents an act of craven cowardice by the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Judges Association, and the Arizona Judicial Council who caved under threats from extremists like Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy and Tea-Publicans in the Legislature who wanted to put the full repeal of the Judicial Merit Selection Sytem on the ballot in November.
This so-called "great compromise" is in reality a "great capitulation." It should result in the replacement of the board members of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Judges Association, and the Arizona Judicial Council for such cowardice in failing to stand up to extremism. This is what lawyers and judges are supposed to do -- we are the last line of defense. I am ashamed for my profession.
The Arizona Republic reports Proposition would give Arizona governor more power in judge selection:
A ballot proposition going before Arizona voters this fall would, if approved, give the governor more power and discretion in the process of selecting judges in large counties.
Proposition 115 proposes several changes to the current system of appointing judges to superior or appellate courts in Arizona's largest counties -- those with populations above 250,000 -- with the ultimate goal of decreasing the state Bar's power over appointments and giving more clout to the elected governor.
Only Maricopa and Pima counties would be affected. Though Pinal County is nearing the population threshold for a large county, it remains among the 13 smaller counties that elect judges to superior court.
The ballot measure, a result of intense negotiations among many stakeholders, is known as the "great compromise." It tries to balance the interests of legislators who wanted to return large counties to a process of electing judges like their smaller counterparts with those of a legal community that sought to preserve the current merit-selection system for large counties, where most judicial activities take place.
As a result, voters will see statements of support in the election publicity pamphlet from all key stakeholders, including the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Judges Association, the Legislature, the Arizona Judicial Council and the Governor's Office.
But a significant portion of Arizona's legal community opposes the constitutional amendment, saying it would create opportunities for politics to influence the state's judicial system. This high-profile opposition includes former state Bar presidents, former chief justices, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the Maricopa County Bar Association and the Arizona Democratic Party.
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Legal experts say the current merit-selection process, which has been in place since the 1970s, has become a national model for selecting judges, with a record of strong candidates that produced even stronger judges.
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Prop. 115 recommends several changes to the current system. Among them:
The governor would select and appoint four of the five attorneys on the nominating commission, with the state Bar president appointing only the fifth.
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The minimum number of nominations sent to the governor would increase to eight from three. The commission could submit fewer than eight nominees with a two-thirds vote.
There no longer would be a limit on the number of nominees from the same political party.
The judicial retirement age would increase to 75 from 70. This is the only provision that both proponents and opponents generally agree on, saying the current system forces high-functioning judges to retire too early.
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Opponents fear the changes would inject politics into a judicial system that must remain impartial, said Paul Bender, a professor of constitutional law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
Opponents believe it would allow "the governor's people" to run the nomination process and nominate politically favorable candidates regardless of merit, Bender said.
Proponents counter that political influences already exist in the current system. Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative non-profit Center for Arizona Policy, said the state Bar favors attorneys who have been active in the organization and only recommends three of its favorites.
"Talk to any judicial applicant who has been through the process. The process is half merit-selection and half political," Herrod said, noting nominees try to lobby commission members to get selected. She added that if it were not for the compromise, she would not have wanted the Bar involved in the process at all.
Stanley Feldman, a former state Supreme Court chief justice who strongly opposes the measure, said he does not consider it a legitimate compromise, because the legal community was threatened with a statewide return to electing judges.
"The Bar, the courts, the judges association were threatened: 'Either you agree to this and agree to support,' the Legislature said, 'or we're going to put something even worse on the ballot,' " Feldman said. "I don't call it a compromise. I call it caving in to threats."
Come hear more of what Chief justice Stanley Feldman has to say on this subject on Thursday evening.