A Push for Accountability in Arizona
September 27, 2012
Arizona is one of several states searching for ways to reform a broken “merit” selection system. Under the current scheme, a commission sends the governor a hand-picked list of three judicial nominees from which to choose. In other words, the power over judicial selection resides not with the governor or any other elected official accountable to the people, but with an unelected, unaccountable commission.
Proposition 115 would require the commission to send the governor a list of eight nominees instead of three. While hardly perfect, the reform would at least provide the governor with more options and slightly dilute the power of the nominating commissioners.
Arizona Representative Eddie Farnsworth sums up the problem in a nutshell: “If the people don’t like what the governor is doing, they don’t reelect the governor.” He said Prop. 115 would still allow the commission to consider whether a judicial applicant is qualified, “but if [applicants] are qualified, why does the commission get to narrow it down to decide who’s going to be on the bench?” According to Farnsworth, the commission’s role is not to tie the governor’s hands, but simply to screen out unqualified applicants.
Of course, the best reform of all would be to put the power over judicial selection back in the hands of the people where it belongs. Or at least move that power closer to the people by allowing the elected governor to choose any qualified applicant, subject to confirmation by the elected Senate.