It was back in 1974 when the Arizona Constitution accepted the merit selection system to elect the judges of Arizona. The Arizona merit system has since become a model for many states. In most states, the judges are elected through a voting system.
The problem with this arrangement is that many large businesses will finance campaigns of judges that are sympathetic to their own agenda. This means that judges will make choices based on the wishes of their campaign contributors, which can lead to political corruption and unfair verdicts in a wide variety of cases.
In Arizona, the state did away with this election process, and instead created a merit system. Through this system, a commission of lay people and lawyers accept applications for an appointment to the bench. This commission then looks over each application and conducts interview with the applicants. After careful consideration, the commission refers at least three applicants to the Governor of Arizona, and he or she selects the preferred judge.
This has always been a well-maintained model, but in recent years individuals have been unhappy with the results of the merit system and have tried to make the system more political. In fact, the public has proposed an amendment to the Arizona Constitution which would require the commission to send a larger number of names to the governor and therefore give a larger number of applicants the ability to be appointed as judge.
A number of Arizona's most distinguished lawyers and judges oppose the possible amendment, and have taken action by bringing Special Action to the Arizona State Supreme Court. The plaintiffs had to locate someone who sits on the commission to serve as a plaintiff in the suit in order to get eh power that they want behind the argument.
Ted Schmidt sits on the current commission, and has chosen to stand up with these lawyers and judges along with two other commission members and support the current system. The entire team at Kinerk, Schmidt & Sethi fully supports Ted Schmidt's decision to stand up for the current Arizona merit system despite the potential consequences of losing his position on the commission for the future.
There are less than ten applicants per position at present, so raising the number of applications sent will most likely result in more politically motivated appointments. The public struck down the amendment when it was presented but the legislature has not attempted to enact a statute which would accomplish this same goal in part.
Attorney Ted Schmidt fears that this will result in many politically motivated appointments, skewing the system in favor of those that have their own political agendas and wants to fight hard to ensure that this doesn't happen. If you want to learn more about Attorney Schmidt's efforts with the Arizona merit system you can read about them by clicking here.
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