Arizona Supreme Court Justice John Pelander announced Tuesday that he plans to retire, giving Republican Gov. Doug Ducey the chance to appoint his fourth justice to the seven-member high court.
Pelander told the governor that he will retire on March 1. Voters retained him to the high court in November.
The longtime jurist was appointed to the court by former Gov. Jan Brewer in July 2009 after serving 14 years on the state Court of Appeals in Tucson. He had previously been in private practice, chiefly defending corporate clients in civil cases.
Pelander stepped down as vice-chief justice of the Supreme Court early last year, saying if he was elevated to chief justice as expected under the normal rotation he would reach retirement age before the five-year term expired.
Ducey signed legislation expanding the court from five to seven justices in 2016 and appointed two new members of the court, John Lopez and Andrew Gould. In 2016, he appointed Clint Bolick to the court to fill a vacancy.
The Republican governor will pick from a list of justices sent to him by an appellate court nominating commission under the state’s merit selection system for choosing many judges.
Pelander has long served on legal committees and organizations focused on improving the legal profession. In his resignation letter to the governor, he said he was grateful for the work, the Supreme Court’s members and staff and for the merit selection process.
“For some twenty-three years, Justice Pelander has been an exemplary judge – a model for his wisdom, collegiality, and commitment to fairly upholding the law,” Chief Justice Scott Bales said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed by his colleagues on our Court and others in the judiciary, and we wish him the best in his retirement.”
The seven-member Supreme Court oversees the state’s judicial system, hears automatic appeals of death sentences and considers civil and criminal appeals, with its decisions providing final interpretations of constitutional questions.