The Arizona Plan

Ensuring Fair and Impartial Courts since 1974


In 1974 Arizona voters decided they wanted a new way of selecting judges. What they enacted was a plan that has ensured fair and impartial courts in our state for more than three decades. While the Arizona Plan has seen some small changes over the years, its core has remained the same. Large counties in Arizona (Maricopa, Pima and Pinal) use merit selection to choose new  judges. Smaller counties, where people are more likely to know each other, use judicial elections.

Merit selection is a method of choosing judges that uses nonpartisan commissions to review, interview, investigate and evaluate applicants for judicial positions. The commissions then submit the names of at least three highly qualified and politically diverse applicants to the Governor. The Governor appoints appellate court judges statewide and trial court judges in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties from lists of nominees submitted by the judicial nominating commissions.

Judicial selection meetings in Arizona are open to the public. The goal is to nominate candidates with outstanding qualifications who reflect, to the extent possible, the diversity of Arizona communities.

Public members make up the majority of every judicial nominating commission. There are four nominating commissions - one for appellate court appointments, and three local commissions on trial court appointments in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. Each commission is composed of ten public members and five attorney members, and is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Merit selection is not a system that grants lifetime judgeships. In Arizona, after an initial two-year term of office judges appointed under merit selection are evaluated every four years by the voters in an uncontested retention election. Voters have the power to remove or retain judges during the retention elections. The public has the opportunity to learn about a judge's performance thanks to the Judicial Performance Review process that was added to the Arizona Plan in 1992.

How well is the Arizona Plan working? Members of the public and lawyers who appear in our courts are regularly survyed by the Judicial Performance Review. Those surveys show Arizona judges routinely have an approval rating of greater than 90%.

Please join us in protecting the plan that affords everyone in Arizona fair and impartial judges.

Protect the plan that affords all Arizonans Fair & Impartial Judges

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