Debate Over “Merit” Selection Reform Heats Up in Arizona
September 19, 2012
The Tucson Citizen is out with an editorial urging Arizonans to vote “no” on Proposition 115, which would reduce the power of the State Bar of Arizona when it comes to selecting judges in Pima and Maricopa counties. According to the editors, Prop. 115 would “give the governor extraordinary power in selecting judges” and result in a system with “no check, no balance.” In fact, the editors have it completely backward.
Under “merit” selection, there are no checks and balances on the unelected, unaccountable judicial nominating commissions that control who‘s appointed to the bench. These commissions are dominated by a single special interest group – the State Bar of Arizona. They can force governors to pick judges the governor believes do not reflect the views of the people of Arizona. And, if history is any guide, once a Bar Association crony makes it to the bench, Arizonans are stuck with that judge forever. Since 1974, not one single judge has ever lost a retention election.
The governor is the top elected official in the state and directly accountable to the people. The State Bar of Arizona is accountable to no one. Why exactly is it OK to give “extraordinary power” over picking judges to unelected, unaccountable lawyers, but dangerous to give that same power to people through their elected representatives?