PHOENIX - Gov. Jan Brewer will choose from among two Republicans and one Democrat for the newest member of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments on Monday nominated:
• Ann Scott Timmer, judge of the state Court of Appeals;
• Douglas Rayes, presiding criminal judge of Maricopa County Superior Court;
• Court of Appeals Judge Diane Johnsen.
Constitutional provisions now give Brewer, who must select from that list, 60 days to make her choice.
Timmer and Rayes are Republicans; Johnsen is a Democrat. In her two prior appointments to the high court, Brewer chose someone from her own Republican Party.
Brewer's selection will replace Justice Andrew Hurwitz, who resigned in June after the Senate confirmed his appointment to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Obama.
Monday's nominations followed a daylong session of screening the nine finalists - a process the voters will be asked to overhaul in November to give the governor more say over the process, and obligating the commission to send the governor at least eight names to choose among.
The changes proposed are so significant commissioners questioned each applicant about the pros and cons of Proposition 115.
While several of those screened talked about elements they like and do not, none expressed a definitive opinion on whether the measure should be adopted.
Until 1974, all judges in Arizona were elected, the same as any politician. The constitutional amendment approved that year has applicants for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and trial courts in Pima and Maricopa counties screened by special commissions. The governor must select from that list.
Whoever the governor selects then "runs" for re-election every four years, but not against an actual opponent. Voters are asked if each judge should be retained. If voters say no, a replacement is appointed.
Besides giving the governor eight names to pick from, the proposed new system would eliminate the requirement that candidates from different political parties be included on the final list and would give the governor greater control over who serves on the screening panels.
Members of the Arizona Judges Association agreed to support the measure after some lawmakers threatened to propose a system where judges would have to be confirmed by the Senate and reconfirmed every four years, according to lobbyist Pete Dunn.
The League of Women Voters has objected to the measure, calling the support from the judges association "basically an extorted plea bargain," in the organization's formal ballot pamphlet statement.
During the interviews, Timmer said she likes some elements of Proposition 115, including raising the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. But Timmer said she is "fearful" of what might happen in situations where there really are not eight qualified people for a vacancy.
Johnsen expressed similar concerns. But she said one potential benefit of the changes would be that the system would be more "democratic" to the extent that the governor, as an elected official, would be doing the final screening.
"I like the system the way it is," Rayes told his interviewers. "But I'm not convinced it can't be improved."
Two of the nominees are repeat finalists. Johnsen and Timmer were on the short list sent to Brewer in 2010 when the governor named Republican Robert Brutinel to the bench.