Plans to add 2 justices to the Arizona and Georgia supreme courts pass committee hurdles; critics call them court packing plans

Plans to expand the Arizona (from 5 to 7 members) and the Georgia (7 to 9) supreme courts cleared committee hurdles yesterday and appear on their way to final passage. Proponents argue the expansions are needed for growing states. Critics in both Arizona and Georgia view the proposals as efforts at packing the courts.

Arizona HB 2537 which was already approved by the House last month cleared the Senate Government Committee on a 4-3 vote yesterday. It now goes to the Senate Rules Committee before going on to the full Senate.

Georgia’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved HB 927 which expands the supreme court and restructures the appellate jurisdiction and procedures both for that court and the state’s Court of Appeals. That bill will now move on for a Senate floor vote.

Both bills call for the new vacancies to be filled by the state’s sitting governors. Arizona uses a merit/commission system; Georgia’s bill calls for the governor alone to make the selections.

The efforts by legislators in Arizona and Georgia appears to be part of a larger national trend to alter the number of justices on courts of last resort as detailed here.