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State of Arizona

History of Reform Efforts: Arizona

Unsuccessful Reform Efforts

2005
HCR2056 called for replacing the merit selection process with a gubernatorial appointment and senate confirmation process. Judges would be subject to re-confirmation every four years. HB2057 would have allowed voters to decide whether the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, rather than a supreme court justice, should chair the state's three nominating commissions. Both bills passed the house judiciary committee.

2008
The house rejected a proposed constitutional amendment (HCR2024) that would have raised the county population threshold for merit selection from 250,000 to 800,000.

A proposed constitutional amendment eliminating merit selection for all superior court judges (HCR2063) was retained on the house calendar.

2013
In April 2013, the Arizona legislature and Governor Jan Brewer approved H.B. 2600, which required the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments (under most circumstances) to submit at least five nominees to the governor for each vacancy on a state appellate court. On September 13, 2013, the Arizona Supreme Court struck down H.B. 2600. The Court ruled that "the requirement fundamentally changes the selection process set forth in the [Arizona] constitution," which requires the Commission to recommend “not less than three” nominees to the governor.

The Court's opinion is available at http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/OpinionFiles/Supreme/2013/CV-13-0225-SA.pdf

Since the adoption of merit selection in 1974, opponents have repeatedly introduced legislation to repeal or modify the system. A 1982 petition drive to eliminate merit selection garnered 70,000 of the 83,000 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Various bills introduced in the legislature have been aimed at reinstating judicial elections, requiring senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointments, altering the composition of judicial nominating commissions, and changing the number of nominees the commissions are required to recommend for vacancies on the bench.