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Merit-based System Considered For Coconino County Judges
Officials in a northern Arizona county are considering asking voters to implement a merit-based system for selecting the county's five superior court judges.
Coconino County supervisors are examining the process where a committee would nominate candidates and the governor would make the final selection, the Arizona Daily Sun reported Wednesday.
Under this system, voters would decide if judges should be retained at the end their terms.
Superior court judges in many counties in the state are currently elected in a manner similar to other candidates for state office.
The state requires the merit-based system for selecting judges in counties with more than 250,000 people, which includes the counties encompassing the Phoenix and Tucson areas. Other counties can implement the system though a popular vote.
Switching to the merit-based system would largely take partisan politics out of the election of judges, Superior Court Judge Dan Slayton told the Flagstaff City Council and county supervisors in a joint meeting Monday.
"My advocacy for this is it is a better system than we have now, because I don't believe that judges should be treated as politicians," Slayton said.
Five attorneys and 10 people who are not lawyers would form the selection committee. They would nominate at least three candidates for each position on the superior court. No more than 60 percent of the nominees can be from the same political party. The governor would then make the final appointment.
The committee members must meet certain requirements and are appointed by the governor with confirmation by the state Senate, Slayton said.
County Supervisor Matt Ryan noted that the system is not fully void of politics.
"There is a political element associated with it and I don't think we'll ever get away from that part of it," Ryan. "But with the review committees and recommendations coming from them, it at least creates a foundation for the professional background."
Supervisors would need to approve a resolution to place a question on the merit-based system on the November ballot.
The supervisors would likely consider approving the resolution in June if they decide to pursue the issue, county manager James Jayne said.