Nominating commission submits shortlist for Arizona Supreme Court vacancy

On March 1, the same day Justice John Pelander retired, the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments submitted a shortlist of five potential Arizona Supreme Court replacements to Gov. Doug Ducey (R). The commission narrowed the list to five after interviewing 11 candidates over the last month.

The nominating commission is a 15-member body. It is chaired by Chief Justice Scott Bales, and has seven Republican members, three Democratic members, and four registered independents. Commission members are nominated by the state bar of Arizona and appointed by the governor with the consent of the state Senate. Arizona is one of 16 states in which the governor selects a justice from a list provided by a commission.

The five potential replacements include three sitting judges on the Arizona Court of Appeals and one judge from a superior court. Three are registered Republicans, and two are registered Democrats. The nominee will be Ducey’s fourth appointment to the seven-member court.

A new judge will be chosen by no later than May 1. After receiving the shortlist from the nominating commission, Ducey has 60 days to appoint the new justice. If Ducey does not meet that deadline, Chief Justice Scott Bales would appoint the court’s new justice. A chief justice appointing a new justice has never happened in Arizona history.

Of the six justices currently on the court, five were appointed by Republican governors and one was appointed by a Democratic governor.

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