Arizona Supreme Court

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Arizona Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   5
Founded:   1912
Chief:  $160,000
Associates:  $155,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Assisted appointment
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Scott Bales  •  Rebecca White Berch  •  Ann Timmer  •  John Pelander  •  Robert Brutinel  •  

Seal of Arizona.png

Founded in February 1912, the Arizona Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.


Arizona Supreme Court Building
The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Chief Justice Scott Bales2005-2021Gov. Janet Napolitano
Justice Rebecca White Berch2002-2016Gov. Jane Dee Hull
Justice Ann Timmer2012-PresentGov. Jan Brewer
Justice John Pelander2009-2018Gov. Jan Brewer
Justice Robert Brutinel2010-2021Gov. Jan Brewer


Under Article 6, Sections 5 of the Arizona constitution the supreme court has discretionary jurisdiction to review the decisions reached by lower courts within the state. Discretionary jurisdiction allows the court to refuse to review a lower court case, unless the defendant in the case is sentenced to death, in which case the supreme court must hear the case. The court has a supervisory role over the Arizona Bar Association, other courts in the state, and the Commission on Judicial Conduct and is responsible making rules governing administration, practice and procedure in all courts. Under Article 8, Part 2, Section 1 of the constitution the chief justice of the court also has a role in the impeachment process of public officials who are accused of crimes. The chief presides over senate impeachment trials but does not offer a decision on guilt or innocence of the official.[1]

Judicial Selection

See also: Judicial selection in Arizona

All justices on the Arizona Supreme Court are chosen using the Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection to six-year renewable terms. Following the initial appointment judges are subject to a retention election in the next general election which occurs more than two years after the appointment. Vacancies, which can occur when a judge dies, resigns, retires, or is removed from office, are filled by appointments by the Governor of Arizona. The court consists of a Chief Justice, Vice Chief Justice and three Associate Justices. The Chief and Vice Chief are elected by their peers to five year renewable terms.[1]

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Arizona was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Arizona received a score of 0.10. Based on the justices selected, Arizona was the 19th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[2]


Minimum qualifications for appointment to the court are:

  • A nominee to the court must have been a state resident for at least ten years.
  • The nominee must have been licensed to practice law in Arizona for at least ten years.
  • The candidate must be less than 70 years old, since there is a mandatory retirement age of 70.
  • May not hold any other political office, public office, political party office, or practice law while on the bench.
  • May not campaign except for their own campaign.[1]

Removal of justices

Justices can be removed in multiple ways:


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 1,054 1,145
2012 1,109 1,080
2011 1,018 1,022
2010 1,086 960
2009 1,023 1,082
2008 1,164 1,150
2007 1,256 1,250


  • Arkansas has not made statistics for 2013 or 2014 available.

Notable decisions


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Arizona earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[10]

History of the court

The court was first assembled in February of 1912. Since then, 39 justices have sat on the bench. Article 6, Sections 1 through 8 of the Arizona Constitution concern the supreme court specifically, while the rest of the article discusses the Arizona judiciary as a whole. From 1912 to 1974, justices of all levels were elected to their respective courts (except in the case of unscheduled vacancies); in 1974, however, the passage of Proposition 108 ushered in the current era of merit-based judicial appointments. Proposition 108 additionally provided for "retention elections of merit-selected justices or judges after their appointments."[11] Section 2 of Article 6 requires that there always be at least five justices on the supreme court bench, regardless of legislation that may increase or decrease the amount of justices at any given time. Article 33 protects justices and judges from salary deductions during their term in office.[1]

Notable firsts

  • Former Chief Justice Lorna Lockwood was the first woman to serve as on the supreme court, first as an associate justice, then as vice chief justice and finally as chief. She was the first woman in any state to hold that position.[12][13]

See also

External links



JudgeElection Vote
BalesScott Bales 73.6% ApprovedA
BrutinelRobert Brutinel 73.4% ApprovedA


John Pelander, Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Retention
2012 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
For retention Green check mark transparent.png ' '
Against retention


Rebecca White Berch, Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Retention
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
For retention Green check mark transparent.png 901,333 75.2%
Against retention 297,288 24.8%
  • Click here (scroll to page 13) for 2010 General Election Results from the Arizona Secretary of State.
Main article: Arizona judicial elections, 2010


Scott Bales, Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Retention
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
For retention Green check mark transparent.png 1,174,085 77.1%
Against retention 349,698 22.9%
  • Click here (scroll to page 13) for 2008 General Election Results from the Arizona Secretary of State.


Andrew Hurwitz, Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Retention
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
For retention Green check mark transparent.png 793,556 77.1%
Against retention 235,396 22.9%
  • Click here (scroll to page 13) for 2006 General Election Results from the Arizona Secretary of State.
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