Brewer court pick wrote 2003 ruling on marriage

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By Mark Wilson By Mark Wilson

PHOENIX (AP) -- A state appellate judge who wrote a 2003 decision upholding the constitutionality of an Arizona law banning same-sex marriage is Gov. Jan Brewer's choice to fill a vacancy on the Arizona Supreme Court.

Brewer on Friday announced her appointment of Court of Appeals Judge Ann Scott Timmer, saying the 52-year-old Republican "has a record of integrity and achievement in the legal profession."

Timmer was one of three finalists nominated by a state screening commission. It was the fourth time the panel had nominated her for a Supreme Court opening; Brewer bypassed Timmer for two previous appointments.

The Arizona Supreme Court is the state's highest court, having final word over interpretations of the Arizona Constitution, including cases that involve politically sensitive wrangling between the other branches of government. The court also hears automatic appeals of all death sentences and the murder convictions leading up to them, and oversees state and local courts in Arizona.

"Judge Timmer embodies judicial restraint," Brewer said in a statement. "She has demonstrated her commitment to interpreting the law as written, as well as her respect for the doctrine of separation of powers."

Arizona approved its state law barring same-sex marriage in 1996. Seven years later, Timmer determined the ban did not deprive a gay couple of their constitutional rights to due process because it "rationally furthers a legitimate state interest" by encouraging procreation and child-rearing within marriage.

"Although many traditional views of homosexuality have been recast over time in our state and nation, the choice to marry a same-sex partner has not taken sufficient root to achieve constitutional protection as a fundamental right," Timmer wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

The Arizona Supreme Court let the Court of Appeals ruling stand without issuing a decision of its own. Voters in 2008 amended the Arizona Constitution to include a ban.

Six states now allow same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to rule on several cases on the issue.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined to say whether the 2003 ruling played a role in the governor's selection of Timmer.

"I'm not going to get into those particulars," he said. "The governor weighs these candidates in their entirety, including each of their qualifications."

Timmer will be one of two female justices on the five-member court, and the fourth woman ever to hold the position.

She replaces former Justice Andrew Hurwitz, a Democrat, and her appointment changes the court's partisan makeup to four Republicans and one Democrat. Hurwitz resigned in June to become a federal judge.

Brewer's three Supreme Court appointments have all gone to fellow Republicans. Her predecessor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, appointed two Democrats. Jane Hull, a Republican who served as governor from 1997 through 2002, appointed two Republicans and one Democrat.

Hull appointed Timmer to the midlevel Court of Appeals in 2000. Timmer previously spent 15 years in private practice with various Phoenix law firms, focusing mostly on civil law.

While in private practice, Timmer helped prosecute then-Gov. Evan Mecham in legislative impeachment proceedings.

The other two finalists for the high court appointment were Court of Appeals Judge Diane Johnsen, a Democrat, and Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Rayes, a Republican.