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AZ lawmakers pass ballot measure that aims to end public vote on retaining judges

Lauren Clark and Kenneth Wong, FOX 10 | June 12, 2024 | original article


Should judges be voted into office, or should they have a lifetime term? That will be the question possibly in front of Arizona voters this November.

SRC 1044 was heard by the State House on June 12 and was ultimately passed. The Arizona Senate also passed it not long after.

Now, it'll be on the November ballot to be approved or shot down by voters.

If voters pass it, it would scrap judicial retention elections in Arizona and make any appointments to the state's Supreme Court lifelong terms.

The bill would also nullify the results of this November's retention election. This year, two state Supreme Court justices who agreed that the state's now-repealed 1864 near-total abortion ban is enforceable will face retention elections.

Currently, trial judges serve two years and appellate and Supreme Court judges serve six.

However, if voters pass this, judges would receive lifetime terms.

The exception to the lifetime terms is bad behavior, described as actions like a felony conviction, or the crime of fraud or dishonestly.

A judge, then, would be subject to a vote of retention.

Republicans argue this would simplify the process of appointing justices, and that many voters skip over that part of the ballot anyway.

"Judicial retention is not really working. Our judicial retention process is leading to these ballots that are pages of pages of pages. There’s like a full third of voters who aren’t even voting on judicial retention, which is not a helpful check in our system of checks and balances," said Alexander Kolodin, a Republican House member.

Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, a Democrat in the House, has a different take.

"People in Arizona are paying attention. And they know what is at stake, and they want to trust our judicial system. Quite honestly, the abortion decision is not the only one that has had a contentious decision," she said.

What are judicial retention elections?

According to the Arizona Judicial Branch's website, justices for the Arizona Supreme Court, as well as Court of Appeals judges, and Superior Court judges in Coconino, Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal Counties are appointed by the governor from lists of nominees screened and selected by public committees.

"Once appointed, the judges are retained or rejected by the voters every four years for these four superior courts, and every six years for the appellate courts," read a portion of the website.


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