Every election year at about this time I get a bunch of questions and emails and phone calls about how to vote on the Arizona judges who are up for retention. Every attorney or politically-involved person I know gets these same calls and emails.
Because the desire to cast an informed vote is sincere and well-intentioned, I will note for the record that there are a few resources and websites that might provide you with some guidance. I am not vouching for the credibility of any of these sites, but some information is better than none:
http://azjudgesreview.blogspot.com/ – site run by conservative Republicans.
http://www.aznetroots.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=590 – site run by liberal, criminal defendant oriented blogger, so you can see who they like and dislike.
Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review – official site for public involvement and review of judges that defends so-called “merit selection” and usually rubber stamps all judges as qualified.
Now that you have that information so you can do your research and your civic duty, I will tell you the truth. It doesn’t really matter how you vote on the judges, because every judge on the ballot this year will be retained – just like virtually every judge in the past has been retained since this system was put in place. Typically, more than half of voters simply ignore the judges since they have no information. Among the rest, about two-thirds vote “yes” on all judges and one-third vote “no” on all judges. Since they only need a majority vote, they are all retained in office.
It says on the Judicial Performance Review website: “Retention elections held under merit selection systems are an effective and appropriate means of holding judges accountable to the people.”
Nonsense. Until someone goes to the trouble of forming a well-funded political organization that targets certain activist judges for removal, there is zero accountability in the current process. I helped organize such a committee several years ago. With limited funding and a late start we were able to reduce votes for two liberal activist judges enough to create a stir in the legal community. That led to being approached by representatives of the judges to work on reforming the system to provide greater accountability, but that process died at the legislature.
Of course, the same defenders of merit selection who claim that retention elections provide “accountability” roundly condemned me for trying to provide some accountability to activist judges.
Judicial reform is coming to Arizona. It’s just a few more activist decisions away from hitting critical mass.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this. I was so overwhelmed by the comprehensive list of judges! My husband just leaves these blank. I’ll be sure to pass these resources along to him so that he isn’t wasting his right to vote in the future.