Many of us just received our early ballots, and numerous judges are listed, three Arizona Supreme Court Justices and twelve judges on the Pima County Superior Court—the trial bench. The Maricopa County ballot includes some 47 judges on their trial bench.
What are we voting for, or against? In counties outside Pima, Maricopa, Coconino and Pinal—i.e. the larger counties in the state—judges run for election with the opportunity for voters to choose between candidates.
However, in the larger counties, including Pima and Maricopa, judges are appointed by the Governor, after having been vetted by a Merit Selection Committee. The same is true of judges on the courts of appeal and Supreme Court. In this process, the Governor may choose among several candidates selected by the Committee.
Every 4 years, the judges who have been appointed by Merit Selection stand for retention. Voters have the option of voting yes to retain or no to reject.
How do you know who to vote for or against? If you have a trusted lawyer friend, you can certainly ask the lawyer what he or she thinks and take that opinion into account. In addition, judges are evaluated by the Judicial Performance Review Commission. You can reviews of all judges in your voter pamphlet or online at https://www.azcourts.gov/jpr
The judicial performance review surveys lawyers, litigants and witnesses who appear in the judges' courts. The survey asks if the judges meet expectations on legal ability, integrity, communication skills, judicial temperament, and administrative performance.
Typically, judges are retained, but there have been rare exceptions over the years. The key is for each voter to be informed and educated on these important votes.