The Judicial Performance Review task force released its recommendations on changes to the evaluation process for the judges and justices subject to retention elections. The revamping of the rules for the JPR Commission comes after the anomalous 2022 election where voters decided to oust three Maricopa County Superior Court judges, despite the commission deeming only one was not fit for the bench. || File Photo
By Kiera Riley || Arizona Capitol Times April 12, 2023
The Judicial Performance Review task task force released its recommendations on changes to the evaluation process for the judges and justices subject to retention elections.
The overhaul of the rules for the JPR Commission comes on the heels of the anomalous 2022 election where voters ousted three Maricopa County Superior Court judges, despite the commission deeming only one was not fit for the bench.
Some feared the 2022 election served as a harbinger for further political party influence in the state’s nationally renowned merit selection process, citing efforts by outside groups to misconstrue abstention votes from the most recent JPR reviews as negative.
Members of the task force seek to usher in safeguards in the commission’s recusal process, as well as greater voter education, further input from the public and an emphasis on improvement across the judiciary.
The chairman of the JPR task force, Chief Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Brutinel and task force members — consisting of JPR commissioners, judges, attorneys and public members – worked to revamp the standards following “voter confusion,” as well as a decline in survey returns, according to the recommendation petition filed with the high court.
Doug Cole, member of the task force, judicial appointment commissioner and COO of HighGround, said the members did a “complete deep dive” into JPR rules.
The task force changed the rules in 2019, but it essentially codified slight procedural shifts.
Cole said the most recent undertaking examined the rules, “overlaying feedback we’ve heard from the last two election cycles.”
The JPR commission currently votes on whether a judge “meets” or “does not meet” the standard for retention. Task force members now want to see the assessment of judicial standards in two contexts: retention and improvement.
The addition of improvement would find where a judge may need to make changes, though the need for improvement itself would not be grounds for removal.