On Friday, the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments announced a shortlist of five candidates the commission has recommended to Governor Doug Ducey.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the influential Republican politician overseeing one of the most populous counties in the nation, did not make the cut.
The candidates submitted to the governor include three judges from the Arizona Court of Appeals, a Pima County Superior Court judge, and an attorney at the well-known law firm Snell and Wilmer. Three nominees are Republicans and two are Democrats.
Montgomery applied to join the Arizona Supreme Court after Justice John Pelander announced he would step down, effective March 1.
If he had been appointed, the controversial county prosecutor and marijuana opponent would have had the opportunity to rule on the legality of the medical-marijuana products known as extracts during a crucial upcoming case. Oral arguments in State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones are scheduled for Tuesday, March 19.
Although Pelander has said he intends to return to finish the cases already accepted for review, a Supreme Court spokesperson said last month that a new justice could participate in the extracts decision, depending on his or her interest in the case.
During the application process, Montgomery sought help from a sitting justice. In January, Montgomery asked Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick if he could send a copy of his successful application to the court, according to email records. Bolick obliged.
Under Arizona's judicial nominating procedures, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments reviews applications to the Supreme Court, conducts interviews, and then submits a list of candidates to the governor.
The commission winnowed down the final list of five from a field of 13 applicants. Ducey now has 60 days to select a new justice. The pick will mark Ducey's fourth nomination to the high court.
The governor selected Bolick – an activist libertarian attorney with the Goldwater Institute and a registered independent – for his first pick in 2016. He then tapped Arizona Court of Appeals judge Andrew Gould and solicitor general John Lopez IV the same year after the Legislature approved a bill expanding the court from five to seven justices.
The shortlist of Supreme Court nominees submitted to the governor is below.
James P. Beene, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One
Kent E. Cattani, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One
Maria Elena Cruz, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One
Richard E. Gordon, Pima County Superior Court
Andrew M. Jacobs, Snell and Wilmer, LLP
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.