With the issuance of this letter, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey formally announces his signing of House Bill 2537, which expands the state Supreme Court from five justices to seven. Ducey assures that this action is not “court packing” and goes to great lengths to disabuse any notion that this action is a judicial power grab. He says implementation of the $1 million + plan is necessary to ensure “swift justice,” although Chief Justice Scott Bales contends the additional judges are not needed and expansion “is not warranted when other court-related needs are under funded.” Earlier this month Bales asked the governor to veto the legislation.
“Arizonans deserve swift justice from the judicial branch,” Ducey’s letter states. “Adding more voices will ensure that the court can increase efficiency, hear more cases and issue more opinions.”
In January, Ducey appointed Clint Bolick, a registered Independent and Goldwater Institute lawyer, to the high court.
Judicial appointments are among a governor’s most significant decisions, since jurists long tenures far exceed the term(s) of the appointing governor. Judge’s decisions impact issues ranging from the death penalty to issues of constitutionality. All death penalty cases are automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court.
In the letter explaining his signing Wednesday morning, Ducey said the additional justices will put Arizona on par with states that have similar or smaller populations yet more Supreme Court justices.
Ducey’s letter explained, “Adding more voices will ensure that the court can increase efficiency, hear more cases and issue more opinions.”
Rep. J.D. Mesnard, (R-LD 17) who sponsored the bill is quoted as saying the expansion will result in a “greater opportunity for diversity on the court,…including diversity of opinion.”
The list from which Ducey selected currently registered Independent Clint Bolick to the Supreme Court, had just the man to ably meet those requirements. Maurice Portley, a former Maricopa County Superior Court judge was appointed to Div. I of the Court of Appeals in 2003. Well respected, Judge Portley has a wealth of experience on the bench and is black. If Ducey was looking for diversity, Judge Portly would have been the obvious choice, If Ducey was seeking experience, selecting Portley would have provided that quality and then some. Several of the other applicants had similar judicial experience. which Ducey’s ultimate selection lacked — though he is politically connected. If that constitutes the diversity the governor touts, we’ve set sail in needlessly choppy waters.