Arizona judges are about to face increased voter scrutiny.
The Arizona Supreme Court has changed disclosure rules to give voters access to all complaints filed against Arizona judges, not just those that lead to formal sanctions. Formerly private reprimands for judicial indiscretions such as tardy rulings, DUI arrests, and accessing pornography on court computers will now be a matter of public record.
The rule is an important step toward giving voters meaningful information to take to the polls in judicial retention elections. As a recent Goldwater Institute report shows, no judge has lost a retention election in 26 years, likely due to the incomplete and subjective information voters have had to rely on.
The current primary source of information on judges, the Judicial Performance Review (JPR) voter guide, is a compilation of the subjective opinions of lawyers, litigants, and commission members. The new disclosure rule lets voters examine actual cases of judicial misbehavior and decide for themselves which judges meet ethical and legal standards.
The Supreme Court could take another positive step by requiring the JPR Commission to include judicial reprimand information in its voter guide. Voters' easy access to this information will help make judicial retention elections a more meaningful check on the judiciary.