Voters should reject Proposition 115 because it would concentrate the governor's power to appoint judges.
Instead of selecting judges based on merit, a governor would have more opportunity to pack Arizona's courts with friends and political supporters.
The governor has the final say on judicial appointments even now, but the current process leading up to that choice better ensures that nominees are independent and qualified.
The process now works this way: When there's an opening for a judge, a 15-member committee reviews applicants. Ten members are non-lawyers (appointed by the governor) and five are lawyers. The state bar association nominates the five lawyers, who are then appointed by the governor. The committee screens applicants and forwards the names of at least three finalists to the governor. No more than two (or 60 percent if there are more finalists) can belong to the same political party.
Proposition 115 would change the process this way: The governor would choose four lawyers for the committee and the bar association would pick one. The committee would choose at least eight finalists and all of them could be from the same party.
The result is that the governor would make 14 of the 15 committee appointments - an unacceptable degree of control, in our view. We also believe that there's no justification for raising the minimum number of finalists from three to eight. It simply increases the chances that some will be less qualified and make the cut because of their political connections. Governors typically choose judges from their own party - Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has chosen 92 percent Republicans, compared with Democrat Janet Napolitano's 75 percent Democrats. But the requirement that at least one finalist belongs to another party is a useful yardstick. The public can compare résumés and see if all nominees are qualified or if some appear to be on the list only because of their politics.
Supporters of Proposition 115 argue that it's an "update" of a merit selection system that is a national model for a fair and independent judiciary. The truth is that the Legislature threatened to try to gut merit selection unless the lawyers' and judges' associations went along with putting this "compromise" on the ballot.
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
Arizona Daily Star
We are making endorsements in the races we consider most significant and competitive.
This is the remaining schedule:
• Friday, Oct. 12: Tucson Unified School District and Pima Community College boards.
• Saturday, Oct. 13: Proposition 121 on direct primary elections and Proposition 204 on a state sales tax.
• Sunday, Oct. 13: U.S. Senate and Congressional Districts 1, 2 and 3.
• Monday, Oct. 14: Arizona Legislature Districts 2, 8 and 9.
• Tuesday, Oct. 15: Arizona Legislature Districts 10, 11 and 14.
• Sunday, Oct. 21: President.
To see endorsements we've already published, go to www.azstarnet.com/endorse