Debate Over Expanding Arizona Supreme Court To 7 Judges

Published: Monday, May 16, 2016 - 7:17pm
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As the debate over whether the U.S. Senate should grant confirmation hearings to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland rages on in Washington, there’s also judicial drama playing out here in Arizona.

“This is the executive making a power grab over the judiciary," said Democrat Steve Farley.

He’s talking about the bill that expands the Arizona Supreme Court from five justices to seven.

Farley said five is plenty and making it seven is a purely political move by a GOP-dominated state leadership.

“The only reason why you would add justices to the court is to pack the court for political reasons," said Farley.

But Republican John Kavanagh gives the example of Vermont, with a tenth of Arizona’s population, which also has a five-justice court.

“To be on the same level as Vermont we actually have to add 43 more justices. But we're only going to add two," said Kavanagh.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard said he believes a larger state high court is appropriate, but conceded that separating politics from policy is impossible with a Republican governor in Doug Ducey.

“There's always going to be a political consideration. And if there were a Democrat on the ninth floor, that would be a political consideration that I would take into account," Mesnard said.

Mark Harrison has been taking the political consideration into account. He’s been practicing law in the Valley for over five decades, is past president of State Bar of Arizona and is currently serving as the national chair of the non-partisan group Justice at Stake.

"If you look back in history when President Roosevelt tried to pack the courts in the late '30s, leading Democrats in the Senate precluded him from doing that because there was concern over doing damage to the institution, and that’s my concern about this," said Harrison.

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