Arizona Courts: The Historical Perspective


December 9, 1910  The Arizona Constitutional Convention completed Arizona’s Constitution and sent it to the people for ratification.  Article VI of the Constitution created the judicial system. 
February 14, 1912 President Taft declared statehood for Arizona.
1912 The Arizona Legislature established superior, juvenile, and justice of the peace courts.
1913 The Arizona Legislature established police (municipal) courts for each of the state’s incorporated cities and towns.
1960 Voters approved the Modern Courts Amendment, which amended Article VI and:
  • Gave the Supreme Court administrative supervision over all the courts of the state.
  • Gave the Supreme Court authority to make rules governing all procedural matters in any court.
  • Increased the number of Supreme Court justices from three to five.
  • Authorized creation of the Court of Appeals.
  • Required that justices and judges not practice law of hold any other public office or employment during their term of office.
  • Required that judges hold no office in any political party or campaign in any election other than their own.
  • Required Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals judges, and superior court judges to retire at age 70.
1965 Legislation established the Court of Appeals.
1970 Voters established the Commission on Judicial Qualifications (now called the Commission on Judicial Conduct). The commission investigates complaints against any judge in the state.
1974 Voters approved merit selection and retention election of justices for the Supreme Court and judges for the Court of Appeals. This system also applies to judges of the superior court in counties with 150,000 or more people (at present, Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties). In 1992, voters changed this population cutoff to 250,000, which still has the effect of limiting merit selection to the three most populous counties. All other counties currently elect their judges but are authorized to use the merit selection process if approved by a majority of the county voters.  The amendment requires the Governor to appoint these judges from lists of highly qualified candidates screened and nominated by the Commission on Appellate and Trial Court Appointments. 
1992 Voters approved Proposition 109, a Constitutional amendment that requires public input and the establishment of a process to review judges’ job performances. The public receives performance reports before each general election. Jurors, witnesses, litigants, administrative staff and attorneys who have interacted with a judge in a judicial setting complete surveys as part of this process. The public provides input through written comment and public hearings.  In addition, public committees screen and recommend candidates to the Governor for membership on four commissions that nominate judges to fill vacancies on the bench. One statewide committee with 16 members serves the Appellate Nominating Commission, and three committees of 16 members each comprise the judicial nominating commissions in
Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties.