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Attorney Jon O'Steen

Keep Politics Out of Court—Vote No on 115

Jonathan V. O'Steen

October 23, 2012

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Although the presidential and congressional elections garner most of the media coverage, there are several Arizona ballot propositions that deserve your attention.  One such initiative is Proposition 115.

Proposition 115 threatens to destroy the independence of our courts and inject politics into the selection of our judges.  I strongly urge that you reject it.

For much of our state’s history, judges were elected.  In 1974, Arizona voters amended the state constitution to implement a plan of “merit  selection.”  Under this system, an independent commission screens applicants to the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and trial courts in Maricopa and Pima counties.  The commission, which is comprised of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, identifies the most qualified applicants and submits those names to the Governor.  The Governor then makes his or her selection.

Merit Selection has been used as a model across America.  In October 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce praised the system and stated that “Arizona leads the nation with the procedures it has put in place to fulfill the promise of true nonpartisan ‘merit’ selection.”

But, the system is under attack.  Proposition 115 would handcuff the independent commission and allow Arizona’s governor almost unlimited power to hand-select judges.  It would eviscerate the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches.  Appointments would be made for political reasons and not based on merit.  Such a process favors special interests at the expense of Arizona citizens.

This is not a partisan issue.  I am a member of the Arizona Association for Justice, an organization committed to protecting the rights of people injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.  We oppose Proposition 115.  Our counterpart is the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel, an organization that defends large corporations and insurance companies. It also opposes the changes.  The organization’s President declared that Proposition 115 injected politics into the courts and would result in less qualified judges.

The Arizona Republic, Arizona Daily Star and Arizona Daily Sun are among the media outlets that  have recommended to their readers that they reject Proposition 115.  The Arizona Republic wrote that Proposition 115 “threatens the independence of Arizona’s most respected branch of government.”

The judiciary is the only branch of government where money doesn’t dominate the discussion and everyday citizens can get a fair shake.  We must keep it that way by voting NO on Proposition 115.

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