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Tue, Oct. 22

Judges vie for Supreme Court opening

PHOENIX -- Six judges on the state Court of Appeals are hoping for a promotion by Gov. Jan Brewer.

The six are part of a list of 14 attorneys who applied as of Wednesday's deadline to replace Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz. He resigned after being confirmed last month by the U.S. Senate as President Obama's appointment to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But Brewer isn't likely to get all 14 from which to choose. In fact, she may get as few as three.

The effective list may be even shorter, as the Arizona Constitution prohibits all nominees from being from the same party. And Brewer's prior two appointments to the state's high court have been from her own Republican Party.

If the governor follows suit this time, her selection will mean the court will have four Republicans, leaving Scott Bales as the lone Democrat.

Applications are now being screened by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. That panel will meet July 31 to determine how many of the 14 they want to interview at a future meeting.

At that Aug. 20 meeting the panel will recommend at least three nominees to Brewer who must choose from that list.

The governor has publicly complained about those limitations. And Brewer is supporting a measure on the November ballot which would require that governors be given at least eight names from which to choose.

Proposition 115 also would give the governor great control over who serves on the commission that screens applicants.

Only four of the applicants are Democrats: Court of Appeals judges Michael Brown and Diane Johnsen, Christina Cabanillas with the U.S. Attorney's Office and Regina Nassen with the Pima County Attorney's Office.

Of the remaining Republicans, though, not all have been lifelong members of the GOP.

David Cole who is with the Attorney General's Office said he was a Democrat until the 1990s, then became an independent and reregistered as a Republican five years ago.

Appellate Judge Lawrence Winthrop said he spent 20 years as a Democrat before becoming a Republican in 1991. And Thomas Schoaf, an attorney in private practice, reported a similar conversion from Democrat to Republican in 1980.

Others Republicans seeking a seat on the high court include:

- Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich;

- Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani;

- Attorney Bennett Cooper;

- Court of Appeals Judge John Gemmill;

- Court of Appeals Judge Philip Hall;

- Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Rayes;

- Court of Appeals Judge Ann Scott Timmer.

Johnsen and Timmer were on the short list sent to Brewer in 2010 when the governor named Republican Robert Brutinel to the bench.

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