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Thomas Zlaket is state’s new chief justice

The Tucson Republican replaces local Democrat Stanley Feldman, who remains on the high court.

STEPHANIE INNES Citizen Staff Writer

Tucson Republican Thomas A. Zlaket was named the state’s chief Supreme Court justice yesterday, becoming the 20th person to hold the position since Arizona achieved statehood in 1912.

Zlaket, 55, replaces another Tucsonan – Stanley G. Feldman, the lone Democrat on the high court – who was elected by his colleagues to the five-year term in 1991. Under the state constitution, the five members of the state’s highest court vote on the chief justice.

Charles E. Jones was named the new vice chief justice, Zlaket’s title since February.

Zlaket and Jones will assume their new positions Jan. 8. Both are five-year terms.

A former Tucson personal injury lawyer, Zlaket was appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court on Dec. 20, 1991, by Gov. Fife Symington. Zlaket at that time filled a spot that had been vacated by former Chief Justice Frank X. Gordon, who retired.

His appointment five years ago occurred on the same day the court released a new set of civil litigation rules, produced by a committee that Zlaket chaired. The rules, which streamline the discovery process in civil actions, are known as the ”Zlaket Rules.”

Feldman will remain a justice, and he and Zlaket remain the only two Tucsonans among the Supreme Court’s five justices.

Jones was appointed to the bench in March after spending 33 years working in private practice with the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon.

The other members of the state high court are Frederick J. Martone and James Moeller.

”The duties of chief justice and vice chief justice are particularly demanding, since these justices not only carry the same full caseload as the other justices, but also are the chief administrative officers of Arizona’s 183 courts and more than 6,000 judicial employees,” Feldman said. ”I am confident the court has elected a very competent leadership team in Justices Zlaket and Jones.”

Zlaket could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Though the chief justice job carries more work and prestige, it doesn’t pay much more than the regular Supreme Court justices earn. The chief justice’s annual salary, set by the Legislature, is $103,538. The other justices are paid $101,130 a year.

Zlaket earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Notre Dame in 1962. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona in 1965.

He was president of the Arizona State Bar in 1988 and 1989.

For 27 years, Zlaket practiced law in Tucson for several firms, including with his brother, Eugene, for Zlaket & Zlaket. He was also a judge pro-tem at Pima County Superior Court.

Like Feldman, Zlaket lives in Tucson and maintains offices in both Phoenix and Tucson.

Zlaket and his wife, Gloria, have four children.


The five justices on the Arizona Supreme Court are responsible for five key duties:

• Hearing direct criminal appeals in capital cases.

• Regulating activities of the State Bar of Arizona and overseeing admission of new attorneys to the practice of law.

• Reviewing charges of misconduct against attorneys. The justices also have the authority to suspend or disbar an attorney.

• Serving as the final decision-making body when disciplinary recommendations are filed against Arizona judges by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

• Reviewing decisions of the intermediate appellate court when a party files a petition for review.

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