Panel recommends 3 for Arizona Supreme Court seat - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Panel recommends 3 for Arizona Supreme Court seat

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Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 5:37 pm | Updated: 8:57 pm, Thu Sep 30, 2010.

The next judge to sit on the Arizona Supreme Court will have prior experience on the bench.

Members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments voted Thursday to nominate Ann Scott Timmer, Diane Johnsen and Robert Brutinel to replace retired Justice Michael Ryan.

Gov. Jan Brewer now has 60 days to make her choice -- and only from that list. If she refuses, the decision goes to Rebecca White Berch who today becomes the chief justice.

That has never happened since the current system of choosing judges was implemented by voters in 1974.

Timmer and Johnsen are judges on the state Court of Appeals; Brutinel is chief judge of Yavapai County Superior Court.

Odds are that the choice will come down to Timmer and Brutinel, both of whom are Republicans like the governor. The commission was required to send Brewer the name of at least one of the two Democrats who made the list of finalist.

Brewer, in her only other appointment to the state's high court, chose fellow Republican John Pelander.

There is precedent, though, for a governor to go outside her or his party: Republican Jane Hull, in her first pick for the court, selected Democrat Ruth McGregor.

Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said he cannot say how quickly Brewer will act.

He did say the governor is "likely'' to interview all the nominees even though she actually has met with two of them before: The commission nominated both Timmer and Johnsen the last time around when Brewer chose Pelander.

This actually is the third time around for Timmer, age 48: She also was nominated in 2005 when then Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, chose Scott Bales.

She is a 1985 graduate of Arizona State University's College of Law. Timmer was an attorney in private practice until being appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2000 by Hull.

Johnsen, 56, is a former Arizona Daily Star reporter who subsequently graduated in 1982 from Stanford University College of Law. She, too, was in private practice before her appointment in 2006 to the Court of Appeals by fellow Democrat Janet Napolitano.

This is the first nomination for Brutinel. A 1982 graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, he was in private practice until becoming a judge in Yavapai County in 1996.

The nominations come from a list of nine finalists whom commission members chose to interview; 13 had applied for the job.

Unlike the federal system, there is no requirement for Senate confirmation of the governor's pick. But Supreme Court judges must stand for reelection of sorts every six years, with voters deciding whether to retain them in office or toss them out, a move that would start the selection process all over again.

In the history of the system, though, no Supreme Court justice has ever been rejected, though voters have turned out one appellate court judge and one Maricopa County Superior Court judge.

The result is that judges generally serve long beyond the terms of the governors who appointed them.

Aside from Pelander, the current members of the court include two Napolitano appointments: Andrew Hurwitz and Scott Bales. The fifth, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, is a holdover from the Hull administration.

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