Rebecca White Berch, a 1979 graduate of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, has been elected to be Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, replacing Ruth V. McGregor, a 1974 graduate of the College of Law, who announced on March 23 that she will retire at the end of June.
Justice Andrew Hurwitz was elected to serve as Vice Chief Justice. Both positions become effective on July 1, 2009.
"I am honored to have been asked to serve as Chief Justice," Berch said in a statement released by the Court. "Although our court system faces challenges in these difficult times, we also have significant opportunities to review all aspects of the court system to ensure that we continue to provide access to justice to all. I look forward to this new role and appreciate my colleagues' support as our transition takes place."
McGregor, who has served on the Court since 1998, announced her retirement as part of her annual State of the Judiciary address to the state Legislature. She said she and her husband decided it is time to spend more time with family and friends and to pursue other interests.
"I am pleased to be leaving the leadership of the Arizona Judicial Branch in the capable hands of Justices Berch and Hurwitz," McGregor said. "I know that they, and the rest of the Court, will continue to move the court system forward."
Paul Schiff Berman, dean of the College of Law, praised both Berch and McGregor.
"Chief Justice Berch, like Chief Justice McGregor before her, provides a perfect example of how a public law school can contribute to the pursuit of justice throughout the state," Berman said. "Both are graduates of ASU's College of Law and both have spent their careers as public servants to the people of Arizona. They are true state treasures, and we are very fortunate to have Chief Justice Berch's steady hand and humane spirit guiding our justice system in the coming years."
The open seat on the court will be filled by Gov. Jan Brewer, who will choose from among three nominees to be recommended by a state commission.
Berch was appointed to the Court in March 2002. Prior to that, she served as Solicitor General of the State of Arizona, Special Counsel to the Attorney General, First Assistant Attorney General, and as a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Following graduation from the College of Law, Berch practiced law in Phoenix. She was director of the Legal Writing Program at the College of Law from 1986-1995. During her years at the law school, Berch earned a master's degree in English and authored several law review articles and magazine articles on legal writing, two books, and two chapters for books. The textbook she co-authored, Introduction to Legal Method and Process, is in its fourth edition and is used in law schools throughout the nation.
Berch has served as chair of the Commission on Technology, chair of the Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments, and as a member of the Supreme Court's Committee on Examinations, the Commission on Judicial Conduct, and the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. She is a member of Valley Leadership and has served on the Board of the Homeless Legal Assistance Project. She has served as Dean of the Arizona Judicial College and as a member of the Committee on Judicial Education and Training.
Hurwitz has regularly taught as an adjunct at the College of Law, served as a visiting professor in 1994-95 and as a distinguished visitor from practice in 2001, and he delivered the Willard H. Pedrick lecture in 1999. He was appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court in 2003. Before that, he was a partner at Osborn Maledon, where his practice focused on appellate and constitutional litigation, administrative law and civil litigation. He served as Chief of Staff to Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt from 1980-1983, and Chief of Staff to Gov. Rose Mofford in 1988. He was a member of the Arizona Board of Regents from 1988-1996, serving as president in 1992-93. He also served as co-chairman of Gov. Janet Napolitano's transition team in 2002. He has a bachelor's degree from Princeton University, and earned his law degree from Yale Law School. He served as a law clerk to Judge Jon O. Newman of the U.S. District Court of the District of Connecticut, to Judge J. Joseph Smith of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and to Associate Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court.