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Judicial retention elections could get scrapped in Arizona, voters get final say

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(The Center Square) – Judicial retention elections in Arizona could soon be a thing of the past.

Arizona voters can decide whether or not a judge should be retained or removed. Supreme Court justices and intermediate appellate court judges are up for retention every six years, compared with four years for Superior Court judges in Maricopa, Pinal, Pima, and Coconino counties, according to the Arizona Judicial Branch. This is because these judges are appointed by the governor.

It is not a common occurrence for a judge to be removed from office, but there’s been momentum from the left to remove Justices Clint Bolick and Kathryn Hackett King from the court after a controversial ruling in April that said an 1864 near-total abortion ban could become enforceable.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 was referred to the ballot on Wednesday after party-line votes in both chambers, with Republicans in favor and Democrats strongly opposed.

“There’s no good reason to undo a system that works well,” Rep. Charles Lucking, D-Phoenix, said before voting against the referral. Several Democratic lawmakers also suggested that giving the option to get rid of the election undermines the democratic process and is an effort to keep Bolick and King on the Supreme Court.

On the side in favor, Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, said that people “cannot pick and choose justices based on decisions that agree or disagree with” and cited his disagreement with the court’s abortion ruling.

“We need an independent judiciary that is insulated from the political views of the extreme left and the extreme right, and that is why I’m going to be voting yes on SCR1044, to give the people of Arizona a choice on whether they want to retain an independent judiciary or not,” he added.

The legislation, if passed by the voters, would be on the same ballot in November as the judicial retention elections. If it goes into effect, it would nullify the results of that election, regardless if somebody is retained or removed. A judge’s term would continue “during good behavior” if passed, according to the bill.

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