Proposition 115 is on the November ballot in Arizona, and its passage would lead to changes in the way we select certain judges (appellate court judges and superior court judges in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties).

This past month, State Bar CEO John Phelps co-wrote an article in Arizona Attorney that described the history of merit selection. The authors also explored what would change under the new law.

As John pointed out, there is a wide variety of opinion among the state’s lawyers and judges over the wisdom of passing Prop 115. The State Bar is supporting its passage and has written a ballot-pamphlet statement on its behalf.

(To read the text of the Proposition as well as all of the “For” and “Against” statements, go here.)

An event tomorrow night may allow you to hear both sides state their cases. The Maricopa County Bar Association (which wrote an “Against” statement in the voter pamphlet) is hosting a forum on the topic. It will be held at their offices at 303 E. Palm Lane in Phoenix, from 4:30 to 5:30.

More information on the event is here.

As the MCBA describes it:

“All sides of the issue will be debated by a distinguished panel moderated by Michael Grant of Gallagher & Kennedy.”

“The panelists are Hon. Ruth V. McGregor, retired chief justice, Arizona Supreme Court; Mark I. Harrison, Osborn Maledon; Peter Gentala, counsel to the majority, Arizona House of Representatives; and Joseph A. Kanefield, immediate past president of the State Bar of Arizona of Ballard Spahr.”

Admission is free, but they’ve asked people to register their attendance with bboehlke@maricopabar.org.

I may see you there.

Here’s a map to the location:

The State Bar Convention is about a lot more than merit selection of judges—but a dialogue on the topic ranged through numerous sessions.

Prop 115 panel, L to R: Grady Gammage, Jr., Peter Gentala, Hon. Mary Schroeder, Pete Dunn, Hon. Ruth McGregor (ret.)

An unscientific survey (by me in the Biltmore hallways) reveals that too few lawyers are even aware that a ballot proposition is headed our way that would alter the Arizona Constitution in a way that should be of interest to all.

Proposition 115, as it’s been numbered, will be on the November ballot. For some background on merit selection generally, see a page on the State Bar website (the State Bar supports the compromise).

A Wednesday morning seminar at Convention covered the general topic of the relationship between the Legislature and the courts. And as I noted previously, even that session ended up substantially focused on merit selection.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, a session dedicated to the topic provided a stellar panel. It included Ninth Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder; former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor (ret.); Pete Dunn of the Arizona Judges Association; Peter Gentala, Counsel to the Majority in the state House of Representatives; and State Bar President Joe Kanefield. The moderator was Grady Gammage Jr. (who has performed this task, on the same subject, before).

A slide on the judicial merit-selection compromise

Judge Mary Schroeder, in short order, explained why we have merit selection, why she opposes Prop 115 and why Arizonans should be proud of their judges. Justice McGregor then did the same.

On the other side of the issue, Peter Gentala and Pete Dunn urged support for Prop 115.

State Bar President Joe Kanefield

Dunn, however, said that even he believes Prop 115 will be defeated “because it’s a very complex proposition and people usually vote no.” But if it goes down, he added, we had better be ready for a legislative backlash. He said he would expect “a total emasculation of merit [selection] in coming sessions.”

Four audience members spoke, largely in opposition to the proposition or simply seeking clarification. Speaking for the State Bar and its support of Prop 115 were Amelia Craig Cramer and Whitney Cunningham.