Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Arizona: Supreme Court okays Pearce recall

The Arizona Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to toss out the recall effort against Senate President Russell Pearce. The Court held that a recall law should be "liberally" construed using a "substantial compliance" standard, rather than a "strict compliance" one. The court noted that Arizona voters cared enough about the recall to have President William Howard Taft veto the state's constitution (and delay statehood) over the recall law (as it pertained to judges).

From the decision in Franklin Bruce Ross v. Ken Bennett:

A. The Public's Right to Recall

¶7 The Arizona Constitution guarantees the people the right to recall public officers who hold elective offices. Ariz. Const. art. 8, pt. 1, § 1. Although the recall procedure has been used rarely, recall was an important issue during the Constitutional Convention of 1910. See The Records of the Arizona Constitutional Convention of 1910 [hereinafter Records] 241-46, 259-70, 802-12, 919-22, 925-29 (John Goff ed., 1991). Sentiment favoring recall was so strong that the framers included in the constitution a recall provision for all public officers, despite well-placed fears that President Taft would not approve statehood if the recall provision applied to the judiciary. See id. at 920, 926, 1418; Letter from President William H. Taft to the U.S. H.R. (Aug. 15, 1911) (reprinted in Toni McClory, Understanding the Arizona Constitution 193-99 (2d ed. 2010)). The President eventually approved Arizona's bid for statehood, but only on the condition that the framers exempt judges from the recall provision. Letter to U.S. H.R. Arizonans acquiesced to the President's request, but less than one year later, they overwhelmingly voted to amend the constitution to once again subject all public officers to recall. See Ariz. Const. art. 8, pt. 1, § 1. This broad recall provision remains in force today. Id.; see also Ariz. Rev. Stat. ("A.R.S.") § 19-201(A) (Supp. 2011) (implementing constitutional recall provision).

¶8 Given this history, this Court has interpreted constitutional and statutory provisions governing recall liberally to protect the public's right to recall its officials. See Pacuilla v. Cochise Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 186 Ariz. 367, 368, 923 P.2d 833, 834 (1996); Johnson v. Maehling, 123 Ariz. 15, 18, 597 P.2d 1, 4 (1979); Abbey v. Green, 28 Ariz. 53, 72-74, 235 P. 150, 157 (1925).

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