The Arizona Supreme Court set two new records in 2019, and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel notes that it was the “perfect storm.” He notes that 2020 will show a noticeable increase in the number of opinions from the expanded court.
The Supreme Court’s 26 opinions in 2019 are the fewest issued by Arizona’s highest court in modern times* Also, the 7 justices have not issued an opinion since the Brush & Nib opinion attracted national attention on September 16; never* has the Supreme Court gone this long without releasing an opinion.**
Brutinel tells AZ Law that it is “a funny set of circumstances” that led to fewer opinions being issued. Among the confluence of events was the departures of Chief Justice Scott Bales and Justice John Pelander, the resulting appointment of two new justices “who really want the first ones to be good” and naming of a new Chief Justice and Vice Chief Justice. In addition, a “minor factor” may have also been the difficulty and 110- page length of the Brush & Nib opinion. (James Beene and Bill Montgomery are the two new Justices.)
“We’ll get back into a regular rhythm as people get a little more experienced,” the new Chief Justice explained. “The reality is we’re trying to take more cases, (we are) a group of people that wants to work hard – they’re here to write opinions.”