Washington DC | Sep 13, 2013
Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, issued the following statement in reaction to the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling today in Dobson v. State of Arizona, “The Arizona Supreme Court has awarded defenders of fair and impartial courts a decisive victory. It rejected an attempt by legislators to throw open the courtroom doors to greater political influence on the judiciary. Arizona’s existing merit selection system has helped insulate judges from politics for decades, and today’s ruling means this system remains firmly intact.”
The court found unconstitutional a new law giving the governor more sway over selecting judges and taking power away from a nonpartisan, 15-member vetting commission. Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice, a JAS partner organization, had filed a legal brief urging the court to strike down the law, maintaining that it would politicize the selection of top state judges. There have been numerous attempts over the last 40 years since Arizona adopted merit selection for Superior Court judges in the state’s two largest counties, Maricopa (Phoenix) and Pima (Tucson), home to 5 million of Arizona’s 6.5 million people. Merit selection is also the way judges at the intermediate Court of Appeals and Supreme Court levels are selected. Superior Court judges in the remaining 13 counties of Arizona are elected by popular election, although election contests are a rarity.
Justice at Stake is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group working to keep America’s courts fair and impartial. Its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom—so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the Rule of law. The National Conference of Metropolitan Courts is a partner organization.