State Capitol News
2:42 pm
Fri October 1, 2010

Brewer Will Have to Choose Among Current Judges to Fill State Supreme Court Vacancy

Phoenix, AZ – The system used to fill vacancies on the state's high court is
different than at the federal level where the president gets to
choose who he wants subject only to Senate confirmation. Here
applicants are screened by a special commission which then
nominates at least three people to the governor. And the governor
has to choose from that list. One nominee is Ann Scott Timmer. In
her interview Thursday she explained that her experience as a
judge on the state court of appeals writing formal opinions makes
her qualified for the Supreme Court. She said her skills include
not just analyzing legal issues but being able to put what she
and her colleagues have concluded in writing.

(Very important in decision making for the public to be able to
have that trust that the court is making maybe a decision they
don't agree with, but it's a fair decision. And the only way that
the public is able to assess that is to be able to read what the
justices have written and, as I say, they might not agree with
it. At least you can see where they're going with it, and reached
a just conclusion.)

Clear communication about how judges reached their conclusions
also was on the mind of Diane Johnsen, who was nominated, too.
She comes by her beliefs in a slightly different fashion. While
she also is an appellate court judge and had been in private
practice before that, she had an entirely different career before
going to law school -- she was a reporter for the Arizona Daily
Star.

(When we write our decisions, we need to be as plain as we can
and as logical as we can so that, by the same token, individuals
who read our decisions will, we hope, will be persuaded. It's a
different way of being accountable to the public.)

The third nominee has a somewhat different background. Robert
Brutinel is currently the presiding judge in Yavapai County
Superior Court. That gives him something the other two do not
have -- actual trial court experience. He said that provides him
with a unique perspective that is necessary on the high court.

(I think it's important because, as a trial judge, I see people
as individuals. That isn't to say that the other members of the
court are not compassionate or don't understand what happens at
the trial courts. But I've seen people on a regular basis for the
last 14 years. And I understand how important their individual
causes are to them and I think that's something I can bring to
the court.)

Brewer now has 60 days to make her decision. Gubernatorial press
aide Paul Senseman said she is looking for certain things.


(Her main concerns, and it would apply not just for this
appointment but for other lower court appointments, is those that
are strict constructionists, that they look at the law, look at
the intention of the policymakers who have passed those laws, of
the voters who have passed those laws, and then have respect for
the way the law was written and what the intent was behind it.)

For the record, Timmer and Brutinel are Republicans like the
governor. Johnsen is a Democrat. That mix is not by accident: The
state constitution requires any list of nominees to include more
than just members of any one party. And Senseman said Brewer has
appointed Democrats to fill other judicial vacancies, though she
chose Republican John Pelander for her prior pick for the Supreme
Court. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.