Editor's Note: These letters to the editor have been sorted by topic by the Tribune editorial staff in an effort to allow readers to read varied opinions on the issues, candidates, and other circumstances surrounding the 2012 general election. These submissions are the opinions of the author, not the Tribune, and have not been edited for grammar or content.
Prop. is attack on independent judiciary
Proposition 115 is bad public policy that should be rejected by Arizona voters.
The League of Women Voters opposes this dangerous measure because it increases political influence in our judiciary while reducing the quality of the judges selected to our courts.
Arizona has used merit selection since the 1970s to select judges for the supreme and appellate courts and the superior courts in counties with more than 250,000 people.
Prop. 115 changes the nominating commissions for those courts, with the governor appointing 14 of the 15 members, up from 10 now. Those commissioners, who interview and screen for the best candidates, would have to loosen their standards. Under merit selection, the top three candidates are sent to the governor for consideration. Prop. 115 changes that to as many as eight, potentially destroying any sense of merit in the process. Also gone would be the requirement to have nominees of different political parties.
The changes would allow political friends and cronies to make their way through the process and win seats on the bench despite a lack of merit.
The League of Women Voters urge Arizonans to reject this blatant attack on our independent judiciary.
Impartial Courts Director, League of Women Voters
Legislature holds too much power
Proposition 115 has been clearly identified as a very bad ballot effort by the politicians to give the governor nearly complete control of judicial selection, effectively destroying the current “merit selection” system of selecting our appellate judges that is widely respected and copied. However, there has been less attention to what is perhaps a more ominous feature of Prop. 115: A new, broad power granted to the legislature to hold formal investigations of any judge that is up for retention.
Arizona judges already have a rigorous “Judicial Performance Review” system. The 97th Arizona Town Hall, reviewing all branches of government in its meeting, “Arizona Government, the Next 100 Years,” stated, “Arguably no other public officials are subject to the same degree of accountability as judges.”
But now, under Prop. 115, any time the legislature decided it didn’t like a decision of a judge (like when the Supreme Court refused to throw out the Independent Redistricting Commission) or a jury verdict (remember the Azscam prosecutions of corrupt legislators?) or a criminal sentencing, the politicians could hold staged-for-TV hearings about every aspect of a judge’s performance.
Individuals who serve our state as judges already make significant sacrifices. Fewer good judges will wish to serve, knowing that they could be hauled up to the state capitol and grilled by a hostile legislature, any time they make a difficult decision.
Vote No on Prop. 115.
Chair, “No on Proposition 115” Committee
Don’t let politics enter the courtroom
As a police officer and a leader of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, I count on Arizona judges to properly apply the law and ensure that people seeking justice are treated fairly. Members of the law enforcement community rely on judges to respect prosecutors, defendants and victims. A November referendum, Proposition 115, threatens to inject politics into our courtrooms, jeopardizing justice for all involved.
Judges in Arizona’s largest counties make their way to the bench through merit selection. Nominating panels take applications for judicial openings and conduct interviews. The top three candidates are sent to the governor for appointment to the bench. Since 1974, attorneys wanting a seat on the Supreme Court, court of appeals and courts in large counties have undergone this merit selection process. In fact, Arizona’s merit selection process remains a model for other states.
The nominating commissions are comprised of five attorneys recommended by the State Bar and 10 members appointed by the governor. Only the top three candidates go the governor for consideration. Under Prop. 115, a governor would receive 14 of the 15 appointments. And eight candidates must be sent the governor for consideration. Cronies and friends of the governor and unqualified applicants would then have equal chance of making it to the bench.
Law enforcement members oppose this new process. We prefer the most qualified candidates be selected, not the most politically connected. Merit, not political affiliation or ideology, must remain the key component of our judicial selection process. We at the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association urge voters to reject Prop. 115.
President, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association