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Timmer’s persistence pays off with state Supreme Court appointment

Ann Scott Timmer

Ann Scott Timmer (File photo)

Judge Ann Scott Timmer’s advice to her disappointed daughters after her third failed attempt at landing a spot on the Supreme Court was that the only way to avoid disappointment was to not take risks.

On Friday, Gov. Jan Brewer chose the Republican Court of Appeals judge to replace former Vice Chief Justice Andrew Hurwitz, giving Timmer a chance to slightly revise her lesson to her children.

“The lesson is still the same. If it’s something that you want and something that you’re qualified for, to a point you need to be persistent about trying to achieve the goal,” said Timmer, 52, who has been on the Court of Appeals in Phoenix since 2000. “I thought I had one more chance at it and I’m glad I did.”

The announcement also came on the 84th birthday of Timmer’s mother, whom she was having lunch with when Brewer called.

It is common for Supreme Court Justices to go through the selection process and even make it as a finalist more than once before getting chosen.  But Timmer stands as the most persistent of applicants, having been a finalist four times.

This was the third time the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments selected her as a finalist to interview with Brewer. In 2005, she was the sacrificial Republican in a finalist slate that included two Democrats for Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Timmer said there was nothing different about this year’s interview with the governor than in the past.

“I never saw it as a rejection of me when I wasn’t appointed as much as a selection of who she thought was best at the time for the position,” she said.

Brewer said in a press release that Timmer “embodies judicial restraint.”

“She has demonstrated her commitment to interpreting the law as written, as well as her respect for the doctrine of separation of powers,” Brewer said.

But Brewer’s spokesman, Matt Benson, gave Timmer a less-than-ringing endorsement as the governor’s preferred choice.

“The governor was happy with the qualifications of the Supreme Court applicants forwarded by the nomination commission, but would always prefer to have as many qualified judicial candidates as possible from which to select,” Benson wrote in an email. “This is the basis of her support for the important reforms proposed as part of Proposition 115.”

The ballot measure proposes changes to the state’s merit and retention system of selecting judges. One of the changes would be giving the governor a minimum slate of eight nominees, and another change would allow the governor to choose 14 of the 15 members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. The measure would also increase the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75 and increase their terms from four to eight years.

Timmer said she doesn’t take Brewer’s desire to have a larger slate as negative reflection on her.

“She made a point of saying, I think to all three of us, in the interview and to me today, that she thought it was a very strong list of nominees, all very well qualified,” Timmer said.

Judge Diane Johnsen of the Court of Appeals, a Democrat, and Judge Douglas Rayes, a Republican, were not chosen.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is required to send a minimum of three nominees, and has sent more on only three occasions since 1975. Brewer has had only five nominees to choose from out of her three selections for Supreme Court.

Democrat Diane Johnsen of the Court of Appeals has joined Timmer as a finalist in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Brewer chose Justice John Pelander and Justice Robert Brutinel, both Republicans, in her previous selections.

Timmer was part of a three-judge Court of Appeals panel that upheld the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same sex marriages on Oct. 8, 2003.  She  wrote that the choice of marrying a same-sex partner “has not taken sufficient root to achieve constitutional protection as a fundamental right.’’   The state Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal of the ruling.

Timmer, whose sister is Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, has practiced in a variety of areas ranging from complex commercial litigation, employment discrimination and capital cases.

She told the commission in August that she has worked as a defense attorney and special prosecutor in capital cases, which has allowed her to see the human side of the cases.

“You go to death row, you see people, you realize these are people,” Timmer said. “On the other hand you see victims, you talk to victims, you talk to defendants’ families, you see the real world impact,” Timmer said.

 

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