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Oct 31, 2012 7:00 PM by John Overall

State supreme court judge fighting attacks from his side of the aisle

TUCSON - Arizona Supreme Court Justice John Pelander is not a politician. But he's right in the middle of a political fight to save his job and his reputation. "It's awkward, it's uncomfortable, it's not natural for me," Justice Pelander said.

Pelander has served as a Supreme Court Justice since September of 2009. Prior to that, Pelander served for 13 years as a Judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

For the first time in his legal career, Pelander feels forced to defend himself against a negative campaign to remove him from the bench. "The hit pieces are not just an affront to me, and they are; but they are, as I said before, an assault on the integrity of my court," Pelander said.

Justice Pelander is a Republican, appointed by Governor Jan Brewer, also a Republican. Those targeting Pelander are from the same side of the aisle.

Some Republican and Tea Party groups are campaigning against Justice Pelander because they believe he and his fellow justices allowed proposition 121 to appear on this year's ballot.

The Republican Committee in Legislative District 18 put out campaign literature encouraging Arizonans to vote no on Justice Pelander. It reads, in part, "In the face of overwhelming evidence of fraudulent signatures collected for proposition 121, including thousands submitted by a convicted forger... Justice Pelander still joined in the decision denying time for full presentation of the evidence."

Pelander says, in the case the committee is referring to, he and his fellow Justices were not asked to rule on the validity of signatures. Their job was to determine whether any legal errors were committed during the original trial.

"Our role is not to decide, should this be on the ballot or not, it's in this case was there a legal error in the trial proceedings below in the hearing I just described for you," said Pelander, who added, "we found none."

Pelander and the other justices are evaluated every year by the Judicial Review Commission.
This year, Pelander received perfect scores for integrity and legal ability and in a unanimous vote the commission determined he meets judicial performance standards.

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