Increased choices for state judges reasonable plan
The way judges are selected for Arizona's Court of Appeals and Supreme has involved what is called a “merit” system since 1974, but voters will get an opportunity to alter that system somewhat on the coming November election ballot.
Rather than being elected, as happens with many other Arizona judgeships, the ones for the higher courts are named by the governor with the assistance of a special screening commission which ensures the candidates are qualified. This commission selects what it believes are the three most qualified nominees with a range of political affiliations for a judge vacancy. The governor can only pick from those nominees. The panel has been limiting the choice to three, although it is allowed to provide more.
It isn't a satisfactory number in the view of the governor and legislators who put Proposition 115 on the ballot. The goal of the proposal is for the governor to be given a wider selection of candidates from which to choose. This would be done by requiring the screening panel to provide at least eight qualified nominees, assuming there are that many available.
Supporters of the measure say under the current system the screeners are in effect selecting the judgeships, rather than the elected governor, because it provides so few choices - and that was not the intention of the merit system, which only said there had to be a minimum of three.
Opponents say the change will “water down” the quality of the nominees and potentially introduce political partisanship into the process.
We do not really see this as a huge change in the merit system. The screening panel still determines who is qualified. Why not send up more, as long as they are all qualified? The still have the option of sending fewer if there are not eight who are qualified.
The key in our view is how they decide who is qualified, but that is not what is at issue in this proposition. It just gives the governor more choices and we see nothing wrong with that.