Today, the People’s Parity Project released a report assessing the professional diversity on the Arizona bench, finding a stark underrepresentation of judges with pro-people backgrounds. Our new research shows that judges in Arizona, like so many other states, reached the bench after spending years fighting for powerful institutions, including the state and big corporations. The report examines the backgrounds of appellate and Superior Court judges, and it delves into how a recent governor manipulated the judicial nominations process to reshape the courts.
Three of the seven high court justices are ex-prosecutors, and three are former corporate lawyers—a staggering 86%. The Court of Appeals has a similar makeup, with half its ranks coming from corporate law firms and half from prosecutors’ offices. Statewide, 44% of judges are ex-prosecutors, and more than one-third worked as corporate lawyers. In Maricopa County, more than half the Superior Court judges are former corporate lawyers.
Most Arizona jurisdictions have few judges who served as lawyers who help people in need. Former Legal Aid lawyers constitute only 3% of Arizona’s bench, and around 11% of judges worked as public defenders.
PPP’s research will be available to advocates who want to engage in Arizona’s process for choosing judges. The information will be kept up to date and will indicate current and upcoming vacancies on the bench.
Billy Corriher, People’s Parity Project’s State Courts Manager, issued the following statement: “Workers are looking to the courts for justice, only to find that the courts are controlled by people who used to represent bosses and employers. Research has shown correlations between judges’ professional backgrounds and their rulings. So how are workers or criminal defendants supposed to expect a fair trial? This lack of professional diversity both generally and specifically in Arizona has resulted in a judiciary that puts corporations over people. Workers in Arizona need judges who will protect their rights, not the rights of big corporations.”