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3:26 AM Wed, Dec. 12th

Ducey signs bill to expand Supreme Court from 5 to 7

PHOENIX - Denying he's "packing” the court, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Wednesday that will let him name two more justices to what until now has been a five-judge panel.

The governor said moving the bench to seven puts Arizona on par with states that have a similar or smaller population, including Nevada, Colorado, Washington and Wisconsin. And he argued that more justices will lead to more efficiency.

Ducey's move came despite unanimous opposition of every sitting justice on the court.

"Additional justices are not required by the court's caseload,” Chief Justice Scott Bales wrote directly to Ducey earlier this month. "And an expansion of the court (whatever people may otherwise think of its merits) is not warranted when other court-related needs are underfunded.”

Ducey, in a letter explaining his decision, specifically rejected that contention.

"Some have said this bill is unnecessary, and that the court can handle its caseload just fine,” the governor said. "But I believe you'll hear a different story from the businesses and individuals facing litigation, who are in need of certainty.”

Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the issue is not that there's a delay in issuing rulings with a five-member court.

Instead, Hamer believes that a court with seven members will review more lower court rulings in civil cases - and, more to the point, issue more written opinions.

"When we talk about the certainty, the more written decisions that the court provides, the greater the understanding is of what the rules of the road are for business cases,” Hamer said.

As to charges he is "packing” the court, Ducey responded, "that's just wrong.”