PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court announced Tuesday that Chief Justice Scott Bales, the high court's only Democrat, will retire on July 31.
Bales' departure will provide Republican Gov. Doug Ducey with a fifth appointment to the court.
Ducey already has selected three justices and will soon choose one of five nominees recommended by a screening commission to fill another vacancy created by John Pelander's recent retirement from the court.
Bales was appointed a justice in 2005 by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, a fellow Democrat, and is currently the longest-serving justice and the only Democrat on the seven-member court. Bales will retire after the end of his five-year term as chief justice.
The court announced last November that the justices had selected Justice Robert Brutinel as the next chief justice for a five-year term starting July 1.
Brutinel said in a statement that Bales has been recognized nationally "as an outstanding leader and jurist" and that he helped make Arizona's courts more accessible, efficient and fair.
Bales could have continued to serve as an associate justice until 2026 but most recent Arizona chief justices have left the bench after stepping down as chief justice.