Voter 411

Voter 411

How to find information about the judges on your ballot

By Judge Gerald A. Williams

Some Arizona judges, like me, are elected and must collect signatures to get on the ballot. Others are appointed by the governor and then face a yes-or-no retention ballot. When it comes to the judicial retention, some people mark yes on each of them, others mark no on each of them, and many just leave that part of their ballot blank.

This year, Maricopa County voters will be deciding whether to retain 50 superior court judges, as well as two justices of the Arizona Supreme Court. So where did all of these judges come from?

Superior Court judges in Maricopa County are selected through a merit system.  Unlike the president, the governor cannot appoint anyone he wants to a judicial office. In Arizona, the governor can only appoint judges from a list of names sent to him by a screening committee.  

The Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments has a total of 16 members. Ten are non-attorney public members. Two come from each Board of Supervisors district, but both cannot be from the same political party. There are then five attorney members, but no more than three can be in the same political party. The commission is chaired by an Arizona Supreme Court Justice.

Superior Court judges who were appointed under this system are on the ballot every four years to be either retained or rejected by the voters. As part of that process, they are evaluated by a Judicial Performance Review Commission.               

Each superior court judge is graded on legal ability, integrity, communication, temperament, administrative performance and settlement activities based on surveys sent to lawyers, to jury members and to witnesses. The results and a biography on each judge are available at: azcourts.gov/jpr/Judicial-Performance-Reports/Judicial-Report/regionid/3.

Some people vote against a judge just because they disagree with a single ruling.  Doing so is almost always a mistake. Try to find out as much information as possible. You might accidentally vote no on a judge who is doing a great job that you agree with 90 percent of the time.   

Judge Gerald A. Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court. The court’s jurisdiction includes Anthem and Desert Hills.

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