What do you know about the Arizona Supreme Court? Truth be told, you might be surprised to learn how this particular court operates. If you have a flair for all things of a legal nature and you employ a burning desire to learn more, here are 20 things about the Arizona Supreme Court that you might not already know.
1. They have a well-defined primary job
There is no doubt about it, this is a court system that was designed to do one thing and do it well. Their primary job is to hear appeals from the other court systems within the state. There is no doubt that they do a solid job when it comes to their duties. As a matter of fact, it would be virtually impossible for the state’s court system to function as a whole if it were not for the Arizona Supreme Court.
2. The other court systems in the state depend on them for direction
It’s true, all of the other court systems within the state depend on the Arizona Supreme Court for direction in a number of different matters. Whenever there is an issue that can’t be resolved through other means, it is the Arizona Supreme Court that makes the decision that eventually allows things to move forward. Without their availability to provide relevant rulings, it would be virtually impossible for the lower court systems within the state to function as they were designed to function.
3. They were designated to review the findings of lower courts
It’s important to remember that this particular court was designed to essentially review the findings of lower courts. This is something that could potentially happen at any given point, but it’s most likely to happen whenever there is an appeals process that is ongoing in one of the lower courts within the state. In other words, if one of those lower courts makes a ruling that has been appealed, the decision often goes on to the Arizona Supreme Court in order to make a definitive ruling about the situation.
4. On the other hand, they don’t have to
While they often make decisions based on the appeals process, it’s vitally important to remember that they are not obligated to do so. As a matter of fact, the Arizona Supreme Court holds the right to refuse to hear any case based on an appeals process or to make a ruling if they so choose. It might seem difficult to understand at first, but the court was given a great deal of leeway in deciding which cases they would ultimately hear and which ones they would leave in the hands of lower courts. While some of the decision-making process may seem questionable, especially for those on the outside looking in, these types of decisions were largely made to prevent the state’s Supreme Court from becoming overwhelmed with too many cases at any one given time.
5. They have seven justices
As is the case with a lot of other state supreme court systems, there are seven justices serving at any one given time. This is fairly standard procedure, especially when it comes to dealing with the higher court system of a particular state. As is often the case, there weren’t always seven justices serving on the Arizona Supreme Court. In fact, it’s a number that started out with only five justices and then gradually increased over the years in order to efficiently deal with the ever-increasing workload.
6. All of those justices serve for a period of six years
Every one of the justices begins their service with the intention of serving for the standard amount of time, which is six years. It’s important to note that there are exceptions, all of which will be discussed later on. As a result, there are some rare cases where a particular justice will serve for far less than the appointed six years. Conversely, there are times when some of them might serve for longer than six years.
7. There is one Chief Justice
In addition to having the justices, there is one Chief Justice whose job it is to oversee the work of all other Arizona Supreme Court justices. This is the individual who is considered to be in charge of everything that the state’s supreme court does. The individual in question also serves as the person of authority within the justices themselves. In other words, if there is a problem within the Arizona Supreme Court, especially one where the justices can’t agree on something, it is the Chief Justice who will ultimately make the final decision.
8. That person only serves for five years
Since the workload of the Chief Justice is obviously more intense than that of any of the other individuals who serve, that person’s tenure is shorter. Instead of serving for six years, the Chief Justice typically only serves for five years. It may not seem like much of a difference, but many people feel that asking a person in this position to serve any longer than five years could potentially lead to burnout and perhaps even cause issues with the quality of rulings associated with court.
9. A death sentence cannot be handed out without this court’s approval
You might be interested to know that it is impossible for a death sentence to be handed out in the state without this court’s approval. Any person who is on death row and is ultimately sentenced to death cannot be so without the approval from this particular court system. As such, they oversee not only that initial judgment, but also everything that is involved thereafter, up to and including carrying out such sentences.
10. They also review all accusations against Arizona judges
It’s also interesting to note that the court reviews all accusations against any judge within the state of Arizona. If a judge has been accused of some type of wrongdoing, it is this court’s job to investigate those accusations and then make a ruling based on their merit or lack thereof. As a matter of fact, this is something that is handled by this particular court system exclusively. None of the lower court systems within the state have anything to do with it. Typically, it’s considered such an important matter that all of the information goes directly to the Arizona Supreme Court. They even have their own individual section that deals with nothing but these types of cases.
11. They review allegations against attorneys, too
In addition to reviewing cases against judges, the court system also reviews similar issues that are brought up against attorneys working within the state as well. In short, any judge or attorney that has allegations brought against them within the state will eventually have their case heard through the Arizona Supreme Court. It is virtually the only way to ensure that everything is handled with the utmost discretion.
12. The Chief Justice is present for impeachment trials
In addition to all of the other duties that come with being in the position of Chief Justice, any impeachment trials that go on within the state must be attended by the Chief Justice during the time that they are serving. It is considered part of their duty, but it’s also considered to be something that is expressly different from their normal, day-to-day duties. As such, it is often considered a separate duty that is added on to everything else.
13. However, he doesn’t have any decision-making power at such trials
Despite the fact that the Chief Justice must be present at any impeachment hearing, it is impossible for that particular individual to vote on any particular ruling. This individual will preside over the hearing, but will not be able to persuade the rest of the attending individuals in any manner.
14. Justices have to be “voted in” two years into their term
It might seem a bit odd, but all justices have to be “voted in” after they have served the first two years of their six year term. It’s true, they get voted in when they are appointed and then they are considered to be in something of a trial period for the first two years thereafter. If everyone is happy with their performance up to that point, then they are allowed to stay and finish out the remaining four years of their term. On the other hand, they can be voted out of the position and replaced with someone else if the majority of voting individuals feel that they have failed to perform as expected.
15. They can decide to stay for a second term in some cases
As previously mentioned, there are some special cases where a justice doesn’t only serve for six years. It’s true, that is the appointed term limit. However, there are some cases where it’s possible for a justice to serve the initial term and then be approved for a second term. They have to be voted in to do so. It’s also important to remember that this isn’t something that happens on a routine basis. It’s much more often something that occurs when there are extenuating circumstances.
16. The governor must appoint justices without regard to party affiliation
The governor has a list of people that can potentially be appointed. He must then select the justices from this list, without knowing their party affiliation. Things are designed this way to prevent the governor’s decision from being swayed based on party affiliation. The thought process behind it all is to create a truly bipartisan state supreme court.
17. Justices can’t take the job unless they’ve lived in the state for at least 10 years
In order for any individual to qualify for a job as a justice with the Arizona Supreme Court, they have to meet certain criteria. The first is that they must have been a resident of the state for no less than 10 years. In addition to having a primary residence there, they must also have actively practiced law in the state for the same number of years.
18. They cannot actively practice law once they have been appointed
Justices who serve must practice law in the state for at least 10 years prior to being appointed, but they cannot practice law in any capacity for the duration of time that they are serving on the state’s supreme court. Things are set up this way to prevent them from experiencing a conflict of interest while they are serving.
19. Justices cannot hold any other public or political office
At the same time, justices cannot hold any additional public or political offices while they are serving. Their time must be dedicated to serving as a justice within the state’s supreme court. This is something that all applicants are made well aware of before they apply for the position.
20. They are forced to retire when they reach the age of 70
Justices cannot serve past the age of 70. As such, they must be able to carry out the full six years of their term before they reach that age. Otherwise, they are unable to be considered for the position. This may seem harsh, but there is a bona fide reason for the stipulation. It’s designed to minimize the chances that a justice who has been appointed will experience significant health problems or worse yet, pass away before they have served their appointed time with the court. There may be some extenuating circumstances involved where this rule doesn’t apply, even if only temporarily. However, they are typically decided on a case-by-case basis. In addition, there has to be some solid reasoning behind it all in order for any exceptions to be made. Justices are not simply allowed to serve past the age of 70 in order to make things easier for everyone else.