Arizona Judicial Selection Amendment, Proposition 115 (2012)

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Proposition 115
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Article VI, Multiple sections
Referred by:Arizona State Legislature
Topic:Judicial reform
Status:On the ballot
The Arizona Judicial Selection Amendment, also known as Proposition 115, will be on the November 6, 2012 general election ballot in the state of Arizona as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. It was introduced during 2011 state legislative session, where its formal title was SCR 1001.[1][1]

The measure would modify of the Appellate and Trial Court judicial selection and retention process.

If it passes, the measure would increase the governor's options when picking from finalists for the state supreme court, Court of Appeals and the superior courts of Pima and Maricopa County. Currently, special screening panels review potential judges for those courts. The governor then picks a judge from at least three finalists. If enacted, this measure would increase that from 3 to 8.[2]

In addition, the State Bar of Arizona will be allowed to appoint only one of five attorneys to a judicial nominating commission. Currently, the governor appoints five attorneys that are vetted by the bar association. [3]

Also, the measure would increase the terms of judges from six to eight years and the retirement age from 70 to 75.

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

Election results will be posted here throughout the day on November 7 and in the days to come as additional votes are counted.

The following are unofficial election results:

Arizona Proposition 115
Defeatedd No1,009,10172.8%
Yes 377405 27.2%

Precinct totals are not final and have not yet been reported

Results via the Arizona Republic.

Text of measure


The summary of the measure reads as follows:[4]

A Concurrent Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Arizona; Amending Article VI, Sections 4, 12, 20, 36, 37, 39, 41 and 42, Constitution of Arizona, relating to the Judicial Department[5]

Constitutional changes

If sent to the ballot and approved by voters, the measure would amend Article VI, sections 4, 12, 20, 36, 37, 39, 41 and 42 of the Arizona Constitution.[6]


In 1974, Arizona voters approved a measure that mandated that special screening panels review potential judges for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the superior courts of Pima and Maricopa County. The governor is required to pick from at least three candidates. The 2012 measure would increase that to 8.[2]

Until 1974, all judges in the state were elected. However, the measure approved in 1974 changed the Arizona Constitution to mandate that the governor select from a list of finalists by that special commission. The selected judges then run for re-election every four years. On the ballot, voters decide whether or not to keep those judges. If voters decide not to keep a judge, the aforementioned selection process starts again.[2]

Seven changes

According to reports, the measure would essentially make seven changes to the state judicial system if enacted:[7]

  • Lengthen terms for judges
  • Raise retirement age for judges
  • Give more power to the state governor to select commissioners who nominate judges
  • Increase nomination numbers for open seats in the state
  • Allow candidates in the same group for consideration to fill more than one vacancy
  • Mandate that court orders be posted on the internet and made public
  • Operate a legislative judicial review before election takes place.


  • Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has stated his support for the measure.[8]
  • State Senator Steve Smith stated, "It is designed to make the judicial nomination process turn on the individual merit of the candidates and will also give voters more information about the judges that are on the ballot."[9]

The following groups submitted letters of support to the Arizona Secretary of State's General Election Guide[10]:

  • Arizona Judges Association
  • Arizona Judicial Council
  • Center for Arizona Policy
  • Governor Jan Brewer
  • Arizona State Senate President Steve Pierce
  • Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Andy M. Tobin
  • Making Merit Selection Stronger Chairman Eddie Farnsworth
  • The State Bar of Arizona.


The following are arguments that were submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State for the state voter guide. More arguments can be read here:

  • "Fair and impartial courts are necessary to assure liberty and justice for all. Making sure that we have the best judges is a critical part of keeping our courts fair and our scales of justice balanced. In Arizona, judges for superior court are selected through a system that uses elections in smaller counties (where people tend to know the candidates well) and a non-partisan Merit Selection System for larger counties, including Maricopa, Pima and Pinal. Judges for the Supreme Court, as well as the Court of Appeals, also are appointed through Merit Selection. Because of Arizona's Merit Selection system our courts are fair and impartial. Our merit selected judges are among the most highly regarded in the United States and around the world. Since the current Merit Selection system is not broken, the question has arisen: why should we amend our State Constitution to fix it? No system is perfect. There are improvements that could be made. Some provisions of Proposition 115 would make improvements. The retirement age for judges would be increased from 70 to 75, and the term between judicial retention elections would be increased to eight years (from the current four years). Also, while the State Bar would no longer make nominations to the Governor for all attorney members of the Commissions, the State Bar would be given direct authority to select one of the 15 members of each Merit Selection Commission. In an effort to protect Merit Selection, the State Bar of Arizona supports Proposition 115.
Submitted by Amelia Craig Cramer and John F. Phelps, State Bar of Arizona.
  • "The Arizona Judges Association supports a YES vote on Proposition 115. This proposition is a compromise which preserves the essence of Arizona's Merit Selection and Tenure system for appellate judges and for superior court judges in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. Arizona's system of selecting judges has led to a judiciary which is nationally recognized for its excellence. Proposition 115 preserves judicial independence and impartiality while insuring accountability through a Judicial Performance Review System. Among the benefits of this proposal is the increase of the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 years of age to 75 years of age. The Arizona Judges Association joins with the Arizona Judicial Council, the Arizona Bar Association and the Center for Arizona Policy in urging a YES vote on Proposition 115."
Submitted by Kyle Bryson, President, Arizona Judges Association; David Cunanan, Immediate Past President, Arizona Judges Association; Pete Dunn, Esq., Counsel to Arizona Judges Association.
  • "Please vote YES to support improvements to our merit selection system. This merit selection improvement proposal is a well thought out compromise that will bring more openness and accountability to our judicial selection and retention process. It will give the people greater access than ever before to decisions written by our courts of record. The Governor will have more choices to pick and that will result in more qualified applicants offering themselves to be considered. And the Governor as a consequence will also be more accountable to the people for the appointments that are made. The people should have more information about the decisions of our courts of record and this amendment will further the goal of transparency by requiring that decisions be published in a more accessible manner. All these good things are accomplished within the merit selection system. Please support the sensible and fair improvement to our current law. Please vote YES."
Submitted by Steve Twist, resident of Scottsdale, Arizona.


  • According to the No on Prop 115 campaign, the following organizations filed arguments in opposition to the measure:
  • League of Women Voters of Arizona
  • Phoenix Law Enforcement Association
  • Pima County Interfaith Counci
  • Save the Family Foundation
  • 5 former Justices of the Arizona Supreme Court
  • 19 Past Presidents of the State Bar of Arizona Arizona Trial Lawyers Association
  • Arizona Association of Defense Counsel
  • Maricopa County Bar Association
  • Arizona Democratic Party
  • Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
  • Arizona Advocacy Network, Los Abrogados
  • Tucson Community Development/Design Center, Inc.


The following are arguments submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State for the state voter guide. More arguments can be read here:

  • "I urge you to vote no on Proposition 115. Arizona voters approved the judicial merit selection system in 1974 to ensure that judges would be independent and non-partisan. Under the merit selection system, Arizona has developed one of the finest judiciaries in the country. The undisputed fact is that the system has worked extremely well. In an effort to assert more political control over the judicial selection process, the legislature has referred Proposition 115 to the ballot. It would basically eliminate the State Bar's role in the judicial selection process and leave it in the hands of the Governor, who would appoint almost all members of the nominating commissions for Maricopa County, Pima County and appellate court appointments. Just as significantly, it would require those commissions to submit at least eight names (instead of the currently required three names) from which the Governor can select. That means that less qualified and potentially more partisan individuals will be sent to the Governor for appointment. If you want to keep partisan politics out of the selection of judges, you should vote against Proposition 115. We have a judicial selection system in Arizona that we can all be proud of. Let's keep it that way."
Submitted by Timothy M. Hogan, resident of Phoenix.
  • "PROPOSITION 115 is basically an extorted plea bargain. It claims "reform" for judicial merit selection - a system having served the Arizona people well since adoption by our citizens in 1974. But it hasn't always served the Politicians. "Reform" is a gross mischaracterization, instead it gives future Governors and Legislators almost complete control in appointing members to Judicial Nominating Committees (JNCs). We trust voters to see through this attempt to politicize the judiciary and recognize that it introduces political patronage and partisanship into our current system, recognized nationwide as one of the finest. Be assured, this is another example of legislative intrusion into the judicial system. And for what? There is NO PROBLEM with the present system. Prop 115 is a brazen attempt by the other branches to gain control over the judicial branch. JNCs consist of 10 non-lawyer members (appointed by Governor, confirmed by Senate) and 5 members recommended by the State Bar Association. Involvement of lawyer members has been critical to ascertain competency of names forwarded to the Governor. Prop 115 turns this upside down, allowing the Governor 14 of 15 appointments, markedly reducing the bar's valuable, professional input. It significantly politicizes the process by expanding the Governor's power. Some 115 proponents say they support its passage for fear the legislature plans to obliterate the merit selection system entirely. Others secretly say they fear reprisal by hindered legislation. People are being `blackmailed' into supporting this for fear of a worse outcome. The League of Women Voters does not act out of fear. Lady Justice's blindfold is slipping. Only you as voters can hold it in place. The League joins former Chief Justices of Arizona Supreme Court, Feldman, Gordon, Ziaket, Jones and McGregor and respected constitutional lawyer Paul Bender, ASU Professor, in urging your `NO' VOTE on PROPOSITION 115."
Submitted by Barbara Klein, President, League of Women Voters of Arizona; Robyn Prud'homme-Bauer, 1st Vice President, League of Women Voters of Arizona; Sandra Goodwin, Impartial Courts Director.
  • "The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, with a membership of approximately 2,200 police officers, opposes ballot proposal Proposition 115 for the November 2012 election. Police officers have a personal stake in having a fair, unbiased judiciary, free from the influence of politics. Arizona's current system of judge selection, "Merit Selection," allows for non-partisan method of judicial selection that Proposition 115 does not improve: instead, Proposition 115 will undermine the safeguards against partisanship contained in the current "Merit Selection" process."
Submitted by Joe Clure, President, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association; Will Buividas, Treasurer, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Arizona ballot measures, 2012


  • The Arizona Daily Star stated, "Proposition 115 is a power grab by the Republicans in control of the other two branches of state government. We urge you to vote "no." Measure gives governor too much power in judicial appointments."[11]

Path to the ballot

A majority vote is required in the Arizona State Legislature to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot. Arizona is one of ten states that allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state's legislature.[1]


The measure was first read to the Arizona State Senate on January 10, 2011, and was passed to the Senate Rules Committee that same day. On March 8, 2011, the Rules Committee voted 4 to 2 in favor of the proposal, allowing the full chamber to review the bill. Then on March 21, 2011, a final vote took place in the chamber, where the amendment was approved with a vote of 21 to 5, sending it to the Arizona House of Representatives.[1]

House of Representatives

After being transmitted to the House, the amendment was first read to the chamber on March 23, 2011, where it was then assigned to the House Education, Judiciary and Rules Committees the same day. It was approved by all three committees, with the Education Committee approving it on March 23, 2011. Then, on March 24, 2011, the Judicial Committee voted 6 to 3 to pass it along. Finally, the Rules Committee, on April 4, 2011, approved the proposal with a 7 to 0 vote. It was then placed in front of the House for ballot consideration.[1]

The House voted in favor of placing the proposal on the November 6, 2012 general election ballot on April 14, 2011, with a vote of 48 to 8, transmitting it to the Arizona Secretary of State on April 19, 2011 to be placed on the ballot.



The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
First Reading Jan. 10, 2011 Read for the first time in Senate
Vote Mar. 8, 2011 Senate Rules Committee voted 4 to 2 in favor of measure.
Vote Mar. 28, 2011 Senate voted in favor with 20 to 5 tally.
First Reading Mar. 23, 2011 Read to House, assigned to committee; approved by House Education Committee
Vote Mar. 24, 2011 House Judicial Committee voted 6 to 3 to pass the measure.
Vote Apr. 4, 2011 House Rules committee voted 7 to 0 in favor of measure.
Final Vote Apr. 14, 2011 House voted in favor of proposal for 2012 ballot placement with a vote of 48 to 8.
Transmitted Apr. 19, 2011 Transmitted to the Arizona Secretary of State to be placed on the ballot.

See also

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