By Daniel Stefanski |
An Arizona-based organization is going to court again to protect the interest of state voters.
This week, the Goldwater Institute announced that its legal team had filed a special action petition with the Arizona Supreme Court on behalf of four state voters, “urging the high court to strike down the current retention election system for Court of Appeals judges and ensure all voters have an equal say.”
The release from Goldwater makes the case that “all Arizonans periodically vote on whether to retain each of the justices of the Arizona Supreme Court,” but that “they cannot vote on the retention of all the judges on the Court of Appeals…whose decisions set statewide legal precedent.” The reason for this being that “a voter’s residency limits their choices to only those Court of Appeals judges who resided in a corresponding geographic area of the state when appointed.”
According to the Goldwater Institute, “approximately 60 percent of Arizona voters get to vote in retention elections for Court of Appeals judges residing in Maricopa County but only 10 percent of voters can participate in retention elections for Court of Appeals judges residing in the far smaller Pinal, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Greenlee, Graham, or Gila counties.”
Former Arizona Supreme Court Justice and current special counsel for this case, Andrew Gould, said, “If a judge’s decision will affect the whole state, it shouldn’t matter where in the state he or she lives. The current system is unfair to the millions of Arizona voters who are bound by the decisions of the judges on the Arizona Court of Appeals, and it raises serious constitutional questions.”
There are four plaintiffs, who are all represented by the Goldwater Institute in this matter. The first is Bonnie Knight, who lives in Yuma County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of judges in Division 1 (which excludes Maricopa County). The second is Deborah McEwen, who lives in Santa Cruz County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of judges in Division 2 (which excludes Pima County). The third is Sarah Ramsey, who lives in Pima County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of Court of Appeals Judges in Pima County. The final plaintiff is Leslie White, who lives in Maricopa County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of Court of Appeals judges in Maricopa County.
The plaintiffs sued Secretary of State Adrian Fontes “in his official capacity because under the state constitution the Secretary of State’s office receives judicial retention candidate declarations and certifies to the county boards of supervisors which candidates’ names shall appear on the ballot.”
The petition for special action makes two arguments for the state’s Supreme Court Justices to consider. First, that “the judicial retention provisions of A.R.S. 12-120.02 violate Arizona’s Free and Equal Elections Clause.” And second, that “Section 12-120.02 violates the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause because it discriminates among voters based on their residency, and therefore denies the right of all citizens to vote equally in judicial retention elections.”
In conclusion to their petition, the plaintiffs asked the Court to exercise its mandamus jurisdiction and “(1) declare the judicial retention provisions of A.R.S. 12-120.02 unconstitutional to the extent they prohibit statewide electors from voting in judicial retention elections for judges on the Court of Appeals, (2) enjoin those portions of A.R.S. 12-120.02 that prohibit statewide retention elections, and (3) order the Secretary of State to certify that the names of all Court of Appeals judges who declare their candidacy for retention in all future elections must be placed on the ballot statewide.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.