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At the time of the drafting of the Arizona Constitution, the Progressive Party and movement was very influential in American politics. As such, the framers of the Arizona Constitution added specific powers to the people, such as the recall of judges. What are the pros and cons of such democratic principles being embedded in a state constitution?

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There are numerous benefits to this sort of legislative freedom and empowerment for the citizens of the state. While it may seem unorthodox to be able to recall judges and remove them from the position, in the context of any other career, it makes sense. If someone puts another individual in a position, they should also have the ability to remove them from that position if they so choose—a manager can fire an employee who isn’t performing adequately.

This legislation gives power to the people in unprecedented ways. It allows them not only power over who represents them, but also ensures that those individuals maintain the standards to which they were elected.

On the other hand, this makes judicial appointments much more political than they previously were. While there will always be consternation from the opposition over the appointment of a judge, particularly one with a political bend they dislike, this law allows opposing parties to remove judges if they gain enough power. This threatens the career and rights of quality judges and introduces more turnover than is ever necessary.

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The main advantage of such a measure is that it brings the legal system closer to the people it's supposed to serve. All too often, the law and its administration can be too distant from the needs of the people. This can serve to undermine confidence in the legal system, which is a dangerous development in any country where the rule of law is paramount. The recall of judges can play a vital role in reestablishing that confidence, giving members of the community a direct stake in the legal system, which allows them to shape its future development.

The biggest downside to judicial recall is that it politicizes the rule of law. The demands of law and justice often conflict with the democratic will of the people. The role of judges is to ensure that the law is faithfully interpreted and applied. In this they are guided by their legal training, knowledge, and experience. The question of whether a particular judgment in a particular case will meet with the approval of the voters shouldn't enter into the equation at all. Law is one thing, democracy another; and the recall of judges is a potentially dangerous mixture of the two, meaning that judges are always thinking of the possibility of recall when making decisions instead of exclusively focusing on securing justice.

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One advantage of adding the power of recalling state judges is that it gives the people of the state the ability to remove a judge who may be acting improperly or who may be making decisions that don’t properly follow the rule of law. Without the ability to recall a judge, the people would be stuck with that person until the judge's term of office ended. This power forces judges to act properly in office and apply the law fairly to everybody.

A disadvantage of this power is that it may politicize the position. A judge might be influenced in rendering a decision or determining a sentence based on how the judge feels the public might respond. As a result, a person might not get a fair sentence, or a verdict might be influenced by public opinion instead of just the facts of the case. A judge might fear being recalled with an unpopular decision, even if it is the right decision.

Granting powers to citizens such as the recall of state judges may be beneficial, but it also could have unintended consequences.

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