Since the 1970s, Arizona has appointed judges to the state Supreme Court based upon a merit selection system. An independent body of citizen-appointees recruit, interview, evaluate and select candidates for these higher courts and forward that slate of candidates to the Governor when a vacancy occurs.
This system is often lauded by both sides of the aisle because it ensures a much higher quality bench, keeps judges separate from the influence of politics, and limits the amount of money in judicial retention/rejection elections.
But some groups quickly abandon these tenets as soon as they receive a ruling they simply don’t like.
In August, the Arizona Supreme Court issued separate rulings that barred two propositions from the November ballot. The court concluded that Prop 207/Invest in Ed created “a significant danger of confusion or unfairness” by not accurately describing the increased tax burden on affected classes of taxpayers as well as failing to reference the elimination of the bracket inflation indexing. The Outlaw Dirty Money initiative simply lacked enough signatures to qualify.
Following the rulings, a group of angry activists came together to call for a rejection of two Justices whose terms are up for retention on the ballot: Justice Clint Bolick and Justice John Pelander.
Since their appointments, both Justice Bolick and Pelander have been fair-minded judges that have demonstrated a strong commitment to upholding and protecting the Arizona constitution. They have even reached decisions that have displeased both sides of the political aisle. One example of their independent streak occurred in 2017 when a coalition from the business community–led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce–sued over the constitutionality of Proposition 206, the minimum wage law. Both Bolick and Pelander ruled against the plaintiffs, a decision that was cheered by many of the same liberal groups now seeking their ouster.
The importance of protecting the impartiality of the judicial branch cannot be understated. The good news is that both Justice Bolick and Pelander have proven to be unafraid to honor their duties to uphold the constitution and strictly interpret the law as written – despite whatever the political backlash may be. And given the partisan political campaign now being waged against them, it is all the more reason why Arizonans should vote to retain Bolick and Pelander.