Arizona Supreme Court Explains Why It Allowed Russell Pearce Recall Election

The Arizona Supreme Court released an opinion Monday explaining the reasoning behind its unanimous September decision to allow a recall election to proceed against State Senate President Russell Pearce (R-Maricopa County).

The Supreme Court explained that it wanted to respect the intent of the drafters of the state constitution in allowing the recall election, which was the first used against a member of the state legislature since Arizona became a state in 1912.

The case involved a challenge to the recall petition by Pearce supporters, who said that the petition lacked clear reasoning and a certification form for the signatures, the Arizona Republic reported. Lisa Hauser, an election attorney based in Phoenix, filed the lawsuit for voter Franklin Bruce Ross, and Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch wrote the opinion.

Adopting Hauser's claims that the Pearce recall petitions should be subject to a tougher standard would make it harder for Arizonans to recall elected officials. That's not what the state's founding fathers had in mind, Berch wrote.

"The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1910 were willing to risk statehood over a robust recall system that subjected every official to removal," Berch wrote. "Adopting a standard that makes it more difficult for the public to remove its own officers would frustrate that historical intent."

Hauser said she hadn't read the opinion and could not comment.

Pearce, the architect of Arizona's controversial immigration law, was recalled from office last week, losing the election to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis. The recall against Pearce came in response to the immigration law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer last year. Pearce was one of four state legislators to be recalled in 2011, along with senators in Wisconsin and a state representative in Michigan.

Pearce may be able to ask the state to reimburse him for the costs of his recall campaign, under an obscure clause in the state constitution. While Pearce has not indicated if he will indeed ask the state to pass a special law allowing him to collect the funds, attorneys have said the clause would send the state into unknown legal territory.

The Supreme Court's release of the decision comes days before the court is scheduled to take up arguments relating to Brewer and the Senate's decision to remove state independent redistricting chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis from office. Mathis is arguing that the decision -- made two weeks ago -- violated her due process under the state constitution. Attorneys in Arizona have told The Huffington Post that the court is likely to follow the same precedent as the Pearce case, by making a decision soon after the hearing on Thursday and then releasing the formal opinion at a future date.