Ignoring a possible legal challenge, the state House voted Tuesday to require screening panels to give the governor more choices for her picks for the Arizona Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the superior courts of Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties.
A 1974 voter-approved constitutional provision requires these panels to send the governor at least three names, with a prohibition against all of them being from the same political party. Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, said despite the option for a larger number, the commissions rarely send more than the minimum.
His legislation would require a governor to get at least five names.
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, argued that lawmakers on their own cannot change the minimum number of nominees without amending the Arizona Constitution which requires voter approval. And she pointed out that voters rejected a similar measure just last year, on nearly a 3-1 margin, to mandate that at least eight names go to the governor.
Pierce, however, insisted this measure does not run afoul of the constitutional requirement because the screening panels could send as few as three -- but only on a two-thirds vote that there are not five qualified applicants.
The 34-24 vote sends HB 2600 to the Senate. And Gov. Jan Brewer, who supported last year's failed ballot measure, has said she wants more choices.
A legal challenge ultimately would end up in the hands of the Arizona Supreme Court, made up of judges selected through the current process.