Court expansion brings more cases, less efficiency

The Arizona Supreme Court from left are James Beene, Andrew Gould, Ann Scott-Timmer, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, Clint Bolick, John Lopez, and Bill Montgomery.

By Dillon Rosenblatt | Arizona Capitol Times

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said the addition of two more justices has made the court less efficient

Brutinel’s assessment contradicts Gov. Doug Ducey’s justification in 2016 for signing legislation to expand the court from five to seven justices “. . . will ensure that the court can increase efficiency, hear more cases and issue more opinions.”

Brutinel, a Republican appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010, told Arizona Capitol Times he believes not only that the court is less efficient than it was with five justices, but that five justices was plenty to handle any increased caseload the bench has seen since.

“[When] five justices take 10 cases in a year, they write 50 opinions in total. When seven justices take 10 cases it’s 70 opinions,” Brutinel said, citing an example of why the court is less efficient.

Brutinel was against the expansion in 2016 and though he likes his coworkers that Ducey added to the bench –– Justices Andrew Gould and John Lopez –– he said the additional justices mean two law clerks per justice, which is six additional people who will look at a case before issuing an opinion.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it’s not a more efficient thing,” Brutinel said.

The first time Arizona expanded the court was in 1949 from three to five. The court building at 1501 W. Washington St. was built with the space for seven justice chambers, which was another argument proponents of the expansion used to push the legislation. What that really means, though, is it would not cost taxpayers more money to build those areas.

The expansion does cost roughly $1 million annually.

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