Gov. Jan Brewer has until Nov. 30 to pick the state’s next Supreme Court justice, and until she does, friends and associates of the three finalists for the job will inundate her with lobbying efforts.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments on Sept. 30 chose Robert Brutinel, Yavapai County Superior Court; Diane Johnsen, Arizona Court of Appeals; and Ann Scott Timmer, Arizona Court of Appeals.
The process now becomes very political because all of the finalists are considered qualified, said Colin Campbell, a former presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court.
“It’s almost like a behind-the-scenes political campaign,” said Campbell, a Democrat and Supreme Court finalist in 2005 under Gov. Janet Napolitano.
The finalists will be looking for people they know who have influence in the Governor’s Office or the governor herself to put in a good word, Campbell said.
A vacancy on the court opened up with the retirement of Justice Michael Ryan in August.
Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor’s general counsel will head up the effort in vetting the nominees.
“Her first priority has been to identify a strict constructionist of our state statutes and Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution,” Senseman said.
Brutinel and Timmer are Republicans, and Johnsen is a Democrat.
Only one governor in the past 35 years has crossed party lines to choose a Supreme Court justice; Republican Gov. Jane Hull chose Democrat Ruth McGregor in 1998.
In 2009, Brewer passed over Timmer and Johnson when they were finalists to replace McGregor. She chose Republican John Pelander instead.
Right now, two Democrats and two Republicans sit on the Supreme Court bench.