Two new Arizona Supreme Court justices sworn in

Posted at 2:02 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 17:45:22-05

Two new Arizona Supreme court justices were sworn in Monday for high court posts that became available after Gov. Doug Ducey expanded the court from five justices to seven, with the governor hailing them as uniquely qualified for the posts.

The governor appointed fellow Republicans Andrew Gould and John Lopez IV last month to the new seats after signing the law in May that added the posts.

Gould and Lopez were sworn in at a ceremony at the Capitol's old Senate chambers, with Ducey saying they "are exactly the kinds of justices I want to see on our state's highest court."

"With your respect for the rule of law, your integrity, your understanding of the court's role in the separation of powers, both Andrew and John are uniquely qualified to serve on the Arizona Supreme Court," Ducey said.

The law was pushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature with no Democratic support and over the opposition of Chief Justice Scott Bales, who said there was no need for extra justices and that the $1 million in costs for them could have been used for more pressing court funding needs.

Bales said Monday he was pleased with the selection of Gould and Lopez.

"In terms of their qualifications, by way of experience, temperament and collegiality, they are each outstanding appointees to the Arizona Supreme Court," he said.

Gould, 53, has been on the Arizona Court of Appeals since 2012 and previously spent more than a decade as a judge with Yuma County Superior Court. He was a prosecutor in Yuma and Maricopa counties and in Indiana from 1994 to 2001.

Lopez, 48, has been Arizona's solicitor general since January 2015 and was previously a federal prosecutor and in private practice.

As solicitor general under Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Lopez handled county and state criminal appeals, defended constitutional challenges to state statutes and issued legal opinions.

The governor in January appointed Clint Bolick, a longtime attorney for the conservative-leaning Goldwater Institute and an independent, to fill a high court vacancy resulting from the retirement of Justice Rebecca Berch.

Ducey said he chose the new judges after determining their judicial philosophy acceptable. He said he wanted judges who follow the law, apply the Constitution as written and understand that a judge's role is to interpret laws, not make them.

"I don't think that that's far right and conservative, I think that is complete respect for the judicial branch versus the Legislative branch," he told reporters after the swearing in ceremony. "We let our Legislature make the law, we let our governors execute the law, and we let our justices interpret the law."

He also pushed back on questions about whether he expanded the court to pack it with Republicans, something Democrats said during the legislative debate.

"We have not packed the court, we have right-sized the court," he said. "And I think the message of today should not be around politics, it should be around the quality of these two justices."