Judging the judges on your 2018 ballot

Judges are once again on the ballot. They are not challenged by adversaries as others are, since they are not candidates.  Having been vetted by judicial selection commissions and ultimately selected by a governor, their names appear for retention.

Merit Selection is in effect in Arizona counties reaching a 250,000 population threshold. Currently those counties include Maricopa, Pima and Pinal. The other twelve counties have elections of judges. 

There are pros and cons with each system, which is moot since Arizona voters authorized Merit Selection as Proposition 108, in 1974 (last page of the quaint, typed list) by a margin of 35,432 votes. It was later expanded, again by a vote of the people, to include more public members on the commission and give the chairing justice a vote.

Judging by searches coming into this site, Arizona voters are interested in how to “judge the judges.” Unfortunately, many of the lists floating around the Internet are undependable, using politics as the sole determiner.  We all know how unreliable that can be. The U.S. Supreme Court stands as a stunning example. Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor, who then reveled in being the swing vote on the court and as often as not, swung left. When George W. Bush named John Roberts as Chief Justice, conservatives cheered. We rued the day when he was the deciding vote in upholding ObamaCare. Such examples stand as stark reminders that there is no simple barometer to gauge those in black robes.

Those putting the Arizona lists together have no knowledge of the capabilities of the judges. Most wouldn’t know a judge they denigrate if they were face to face. The lists are typically based on whether the specific judges were appointed by a Republican or Democrat governor. This is an erroneous assumption since prior to submitting their applications. judicial aspirants of both parties often change their political affiliations to correspond to that of the appointing governor. Governors also make cross-party appointments. Republican Gov. Jane Hull set heads spinning when she named her longtime friend Democrat Ruth McGregor as her first appointment to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The most reliable means of assessing judges is by taking the time to study the ratings put out by the Commission on Judicial Performance Review (JPR).

It’s hardly an “inside job,” worthy of suspicion. Survey forms are distributed to people who have contact with the judges. Survey recipients include attorneys, jurors, litigants, witnesses, people who represent themselves in court, court staff, other judges, and those who have contact with presiding judges. The Commission holds public hearings every election year and accepts written comments from the public at any time.

Judges are also required to complete self-evaluations to rate their own performance. Additionally each judge is assigned to a Conference Team composed of one public volunteer, one attorney volunteer, and one judge volunteer. The Conference Team meets with the judge to review the Data Report.

Ousting judges is rare, but happens. In 1978 Court of Appeals Judge Gary Nelson was not retained. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Fred Hyder was bounced. Other judges have not been recommended for retention by JPR, but were still retained by voters.

Your best guide is to check out the ratings for all of the judges on the retention ballot. Judges ratings and bios are all available. You’ll be far more informed than by giving any credibility to the lists appearing in your email.

Arizona Supreme Court

Court of Appeals Division I

Court of Appeals Division II

Superior Court in Maricopa County

Superior Court in Pima County

 Superior Court in Pinal County   

8 Responses to Judging the judges on your 2018 ballot

  1. Villanova says:

    I’ve received the email “recommendations” mentioned here. They are beyond foolish. It’s unfortunate that they are also included in a usually reputable newsletter that most Republican precinct committeemen receive. Throughout my career, I’ve routinely appeared before many of the judges up for retention in Maricopa County. Without exception, they are knowledgeable in the law and most routinely exercise exemplary courtroom demeanor. Not agreeing with a decision is no reason to vote against a judge. Half of those who end up in family court during a contentious divorce or child custody cases think they were shafted while the other half think the judge hung the moon. It’s a matter of perspective, not wrongful interpretation of the law. Politics only enters the picture during the selection process, not in the courtroom. In criminal trials, it’s juries, not judges who render verdicts.

    Many thanks to SRAZ for directing voters to the JPR.

  2. Saguaro Sam says:

    Off Topic

    President Trump, during an impromptu presser yesterday in Elko, NV, told reporters that he was going to be announcing, prior to the election, a tax cut for the middle class.

    He specifically stated ‘not for big business, but for the middle class’.
    Stated that he has people working round the clock on the details.

    Also stated that if Mexico allows the caravan of up to 8,000 unidentified people to continue their trek to our border, he will send our military—specifically NOT our Reserves, to Close and protect our southern border.

    FYI: The hoard is traveling on flat bed trucks and being fed and watered nicely. Embedded American reporters with them.
    Women (with children) are being paid in U.S. currency to join.
    Otherwise, it’s young males.

    Something to keep in the back of your mind, going forward:

  3. Arizona Conservative Guy says:

    I’ve been reading through some of the Judicial Performance Review recommendations and find the information fascinating. On the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals, there are links to the individual cases each judge participated in and which judges on the panels joined in the majority opinions. This is great stuff, but it would take more time than I can devote to sift through it all. i do intend to return and find out more.

    Thanks for an important and fact filled post!

    • Willie Wayne says:

      Since this whole thing is ridiculous, here is my answer. I vote no for all judges. That way if one is really bad, I vote against them and they are removed. For the others a few negative votes may keep them humble and definitely won’t hurt unless everyone follows my lead!

      • Arizona Conservative Guy says:

        I never said the Judicial Performance Review was “ridiculous” because I certainly don’t think that’s true.

        Using your illogical strategy of voting against all of the judges to “keep them humble,” I wonder if use this same template for the rest of the ballot. Did you throw away the power of your vote on the US Senate and Congressional races, the Governor and Attorney General, your state legislative races, or the rate setting Corporation Commission and down ballot offices? Did you not vote for President in 2016, to keep both Clinton and Trump “humble”? You sound like a true mental giant. Repressed people all over the globe would be thrilled to have the unfettered ability to vote, yet you regard our freedom as a throwaway. I sincerely hope you have no ability to influence anyone.

  4. Willie Wayne says:

    To Conservative Guy
    I was never referring to anything you said. I was only discussing the vote for judges as currently set.
    And since in no way was I referring to my other voting habits, I find your assumptions to be reprehensible.

    • Arizona Conservative Guy says:

      Assumptions? Reprehensible?

      If you weren’t referring to my comment, why did you respond directly to it? That’s why yours is indented under my comment. You obviously hit “reply.”

      As to your “voting habits,” which I had no knowledge of until you stated them, I stand by my view that throwing away your vote is shameful, when so many would give so much to have the ability you hold with such cavalier disregard.

      My comment was in response to yours. Let’s call a truce. Warring words are not the norm on this site.

  5. D.B. Cooper says:

    Appreciate the fact based information here. It will take time to review, but this is worth the effort. Besides, I might learn something,,,which never hurts, right?