Sun, Dec. 15

Governor appoints Timmer to state Supreme Court

Judge Ann Scott Timmer

Judge Ann Scott Timmer

PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer appointed her third justice Friday to the five-member Arizona Supreme Court, once again, a Republican just like her.

The governor chose Court of Appeals Judge Ann Scott Timmer over Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Rayes, also a Republican, and Democrat Diane Johnsen. The Arizona Constitution required Brewer to make her pick from those three nominees sent to her by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.

Timmer, 52, is the fourth woman since statehood to serve on the high court.

"Judge Timmer embodies judicial restraint,' the governor said in a prepared statement. "She has demonstrated her commitment to interpreting the law as written, as well as her respect for the doctrine of separation of powers.'

With Friday's announcement, Brewer appointees now dominate the court.

She previously named appellate court Judge John Pelander and Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Robert Brutinel. And it leaves Scott bales as the lone Democrat; Chief Justice Rebecca Berch is also a Republican.

Timmer replaces Democrat Andrew Hurwitz who was named earlier this year by President Obama to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It is common practice for governors to choose someone from their own party for the state's highest court. In fact, there has been only one exception since the current selection process was approved by voters in 1974 when Republican Gov. Jane Hull chose Democrat Ruth McGregor.

But McGregor came with a pedigree that made her acceptable to Republicans: She had clerked for and was endorsed by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The appointment comes as Brewer is pushing a constitutional amendment to require that she and future governors get at least eight names from which to choose, not only for the Supreme Court but also the Court of Appeals and the trial courts of Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties which operate under a similar screening system.

Existing provisions do not prohibit the nominating panels to approve such a large list. But the practice recently has been to submit the legally required minimum of three.

Proponents of Proposition 115 argue the governor, as an elected official, should have maximum flexibility to choose among all qualified candidates.

Opponents have argued that requiring at least eight names would dilute the screening process, requiring the nomination -- and potential gubernatorial selection -- of those who may not be the most qualified.

Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said his boss does not believe that is the case.

"She does not think that there's a shortage of qualified candidates out there for these various positions, including those as important as the Arizona Supreme Court,' he said. And Proposition 115 allows the commission to send fewer than eight names if two-thirds of the panel votes that there are not that many applicants who are qualified.

Benson also said that the practice of sending the governor only three names for each opening means the screening panel "tends to recycle the same names over and over again.'

That certainly is the case this time: Timmer and Johnsen were the other two names on the short list sent to Brewer in 2009 when the governor named Pelander, and again the following year when she chose Brutinel.

Before being named to the appellate bench, Timmer was in private practice for 15 years, focusing primarily on commercial litigation and employment law. She also has experience in criminal law.

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