Photo by Gage Skidmore Bill Montgomery
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Arizonans have the opportunity to loosen the vice grip Republicans have on the state’s supreme court this November. 

For 56 years, the Arizona Supreme Court had five justices. That changed in 2016 when Gov. Doug Ducey packed the state’s highest court by swearing in a sixth and seventh justice. 

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Ducey appointed five justices during his time as governor, effectively eliminating any chance of liberal or progressive rulings. The court has taken a hardline conservative stance on many issues, including when it neutered Prop 208, claiming that raising taxes to fund public education would violate the state’s constitution. 

Here are the three Arizona Supreme Court justices up for retention this year:

Bill Montgomery

Montgomery was appointed to the court by Ducey in 2019, after serving as top prosecutor in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office from 2010 to 2019.

During his time in the attorney’s office, Montgomery cozied up to disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He defended Arpaio against probes from the United States Department of Justice. 

As a prosecutor, Montgomery also opposed an ethics rule that required prosecutors to show evidence of wrongful convictions

He fought against the legalization of recreational marijuana, including filing a lawsuit that tried to knock the 2020 measure off the ballot. 

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When Montgomery initially applied for a seat on the supreme court, he was rejected by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Ducey replaced three of the commission members who rejected Montgomery. 

After the governor cleaned house, Montgomery reapplied and was accepted by the commission.

Arizona Commission on Judicial Performace Evaluation: 19 votes favorable, 2 unfavorable

James Beene

Beene was appointed to the state’s supreme court in 2019. He succeeded John Pelander. 

Beene served as a judge on the Maricopa County Superior Court from 2009 to 2017 and on the Arizona Court of Appeals from 2017 to 2019. 

He typically rules alongside his conservative benchmates. 

Arizona Commission on Judicial Performace Evaluation: 28 votes favorable, 0 unfavorable

Ann Timmer

Timmer assumed her place on the bench in 2012. She was appointed that year by former Gov. Jan Brewer. 

She was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2000 by former Gov. Jane Dee Hill. She was the chief judge in that court from 2008 to 2011 until she ascended to the supreme court. 

Timmer typically rules alongside her conservative benchmates. 

Arizona Commission on Judicial Performace Evaluation: 28 votes favorable, 0 unfavorable

What Happens Next

If Arizona votes to unseat any or all of the justices, the next governor would determine who takes their place. Were Katie Hobbs to win, it would likely shift the court to a slightly less conservative majority.

Were Kari Lake to win the governorship, any justices unseated would likely be replaced by someone just as, if not more conservative. 

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