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Arizona Supreme Court vacancy attracts 14 applicants

The state’s solicitor general and the chief judge of the Arizona Court of Appeals are among 14 applicants vying to fill a vacancy on the Arizona Supreme Court.

Solicitor General David Cole, a Republican, has been down this road before, having made a list of finalists for Supreme Court in 2003, when he was a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, and an independent.

Cole, who has also been a law-school professor and clerk of the Supreme Court, said he’s seeking the seat to pursue his greatest legal interest, appellate advocacy and development of the law.

“Appellate judges, particularly Supreme Court justices, are making important policy decisions and helping the law evolve,” said Cole, who has been the solicitor general since March 2011.

The Supreme Court seat was left vacant by the appointment of Justice Andrew Hurwitz to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The list of applicants includes six appellate court judges — including the Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lawrence Winthrop — two Superior Court judges, four public attorneys and two private attorneys.

Winthrop, an appellate judge since 2002, applied for a Supreme Court opening in 2010 and made it to the interview phase. He is the vice- chair on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, and chair of the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee.

“Serving in the ethical conduct arena for both judges and lawyers has, I believe, given me a unique advance opportunity to see the ethical and procedural issues that ultimately are the responsibility of our Supreme Court,” Winthrop wrote on his application.

Litchfield Mayor Thomas Schoaf, 61, is one of the private attorneys and his application stands apart from the rest because he went 20 years without practicing law except for a few clients and he spent all of that time as the president of an auto-parts manufacturing company, Adapto Inc. He opened up a solo practice in 2009.

Schoaf has been the mayor since 2006 and he was the chairman of the Maricopa Association of Governments from 2011-12.

“You never really get away from the methodology you learned in law school whether you’re practicing law or you’re working in business,” Schoaf said.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will vet the applicants and on July 31 will decide who gets to move on to the interview phase on Aug. 20.

The commission has to pick at least three nominees for Gov. Jan Brewer to choose from and no more than two thirds can be from the same political party.

In her two opportunities to choose a justice, Brewer went with Republicans: Justice John Pelander, in 2009, and Justice Robert Brutinel in 2010. Brewer hasn’t chosen any Democrats to the Court of Appeals either and only three Democrats out of 28 trial-court appointments since she took office.

This year there are four Democratic applicants, up from two and three respectively in 2009 and 2010. Among the Democrats is Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Diane Johnsen, who is taking her third shot at the job after having made it as a finalist in 2009 and 2010. Other Democrats are Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Michael J. Brown and Christina Cabanillas, the appellate chief for the U.S. attorney for Arizona in Tucson, and Regina Nassen, a deputy Pima County attorney, who also applied in 2010 but didn’t make it to the interview phase.

Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Ann Scott Timmer, a Republican, is seeking the job for the fourth time after having fallen short as a finalist in 2005, 2009 and 2010. She is joined by fellow Arizona Court of Appeals Judges John Gemmill, Phillip Hall and Winthrop.

Other applicants include Kent Cattani, chief counsel of criminal appeals with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, who applied for the third time, Maricopa County Superior Court Judges Susan Brnovich and Douglas Rayes, and Bennett Cooper, a partner with the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson.

 List of Applicants

Susan Brnovich – judge, Maricopa County Superior Court

Michael J. Brown – judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

Christine Cabanillas – appellate chief U.S. attorney for Arizona

Kent Cattani – chief counsel of criminal appeals, Arizona Attorney General’s Office

David Cole – Arizona solicitor general

Bennett Cooper – partner, Steptoe and Johnson

John Gemmill – judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

Phillip Hall – judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

Diane Johnsen – judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

Regina Nassen – civil attorney, Pima County Attorney’s Office

Douglas Rayes – judge, Maricopa County Superior Court

Thomas Schoaf – private attorney and mayor of Litchfield Park

Ann Scott Timmer – judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

Lawrence Winthrop – chief judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

 

3 comments

  1. Arizona’s people deserve a balanced justice system, not one that is made up of former prosecutors and one party. The justice system has been politicized in Arizona and it’s time for careful thought and consideration. Prisons were never designed for women and children. There were meant for the violent men. With the alarming rate of growth of incarcerated women in Arizona, another woman judge would bring much needed balance in the justice system.

  2. Arizona’s people deserve a balanced justice system, not one that is made up of former prosecutors and one party. The justice system has been politicized in Arizona and it’s time for careful thought and consideration. Prisons were never designed for women and children. They were intended for violent men. With the alarming rate of growth of incarcerated women in Arizona, another woman judge would bring much needed balance in the justice system.

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