Protecting Arizona's Merit System

Attorney Ted Schmidt Fight to Protect Arizona's Merit Selection Judicial System

In 1974 Sandra Day O'Connor and Mo Udall, among others, championed an amendment to the Arizona Constitution which created merit selection of judges in Arizona. Read Ted's article from the Arizona Attorney on Merit Selection in Arizona.

This system has become the model for the country and the world. While other states fight the corruption of special interests financing enormous campaign contributions to elect judges sympathetic to their desires, Arizona has followed a process that has resulted in what most agree is the finest judiciary to be found anywhere. Rather than electing our judges, a commission of lay people and lawyers accepts applications for appointment to the bench. After very thorough scrutiny of these applications and interviews with the applicants the commission sends three or more of these applicants to the Governor from which one is selected.

Recently, some in the Arizona legislature have been unhappy with the results and attempted to make the system much more political with a proposed amendment to the Constitution which would have required the commission to send a significantly larger number of names to the governor. Considering the average number of applicants for any given position is less than ten, this change would have watered down the quality of the nominee list and likely resulted in more politically motivated appointments. The public understood that and soundly defeated the proposition at the polls. Now the legislature has attempted an "end run" by enacting a statute that would accomplish in part what could not be accomplished with the voters. This is ill-conceived, wrong and, we believe unconstitutional.

A number of Arizona's most distinguished lawyers and judges, including two former Arizona Supreme Court Justices, have brought a Special Action to the Arizona Supreme Court seeking to have the statute declared unconstitutional. In order to have "standing" to bring such an action it was necessary to find someone who sits on the commission currently to serve as plaintiff in the suit. Our own Ted Schmidt who sits on the commission has volunteered along with Carey Dobson and John Thomas Taylor who also sit on the commission. We believe in our current system. The results speak for themselves. The fact that our stellar judiciary make decisions based upon the law and the fact without regard to politics or popularity is something we should treasure and protect. For this reason, our firm fully supports Ted's decision to serve as plaintiff in this important matter even if the likely political ramification will be that he is not reappointed to the commission.

For more information about this topic, please click on the links below:

Merit Selection of Judges: Under Attack Without Merit
Politics Threaten Arizona's Independent Judiciary

Relevant Court Filings

Supreme Court No. CV-13-0225 - Claim of Unconstitutionality
Supreme Court No. CV-13-0225 - Notice of Serivce
Petition for Special Action
Appendices to Petition for Special Action

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