Arizona voters to decide on amendment that would end term limits and retention elections for state supreme court and superior court judges

Voters in Arizona will decide on a constitutional amendment that will end term limits and retention elections for state supreme court justices and superior court judges on Nov. 5, 2024. The constitutional amendment, titled Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 (SCR 1044), would be retroactive to Oct. 31, 2024, nullifying the results of the retention elections scheduled for Nov. 5.

SCR 1044 was introduced on Feb. 5, 2024. It passed the Senate on March 6, 2024, by a 16-14 vote. The House amended the measure, and passed it by 31-29 on June 12, 2024, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats voting against it. The Senate passed the measure again on the same day by 16-10, with 16 Republicans voting for it and 10 Democrats voting against it (four Democrats did not vote).

The amendment would end term limits for state supreme court justices and superior court judges, replacing them with terms of good behavior unless decided otherwise by a judicial review commission. It would also end retention elections at the end of judicial terms, providing these elections under certain circumstances, such as the judge or justice being convicted of a felony or a crime involving fraud and dishonesty, or a declaration of bankruptcy or foreclosure. Retention elections could also occur by a determination of the Commission on Judicial Performance Review.

Currently, in Arizona, state supreme court justices have terms of six years, while superior court judges have four year terms.

State Rep. Alexander Kolodin (R-3), who supports the measure, said, “[The amendment] cuts down on the number of judicial retention elections to only those that the judicial performance review commission say are necessary because a judge has not met the standards of judicial conduct. That way it’ll be a smaller, more focused list of judges that voters will actually have time to research and examine and perhaps more voters would actually be willing to fill out their ballots and weigh in on that.” 

State Rep. Judy Schwiebert (D-2), who opposes the amendment, said, “While proponents claim that this bill would prevent further politicization, the truth is that we absolutely need an important check on the court. Not only did the current justices rule against the people of Arizona by upholding a Civil War-era, territorial law criminalizing abortion but we see the Arizona Supreme Court make other decisions that are solely political, rather than upholding the will of Arizona voters.”

The terms of two Arizona Supreme Court justices—Clint Bolick and Kathryn Hackett King—will expire on Jan. 6, 2025. The two seats are up for retention election on Nov. 5, 2024. If retained, they will serve additional six-year terms.

Arizona voters will be deciding on 11 ballot measures in 2024. All were referred to the ballot by the Arizona state legislature. They are: