PHOENIX — Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould is leaving the bench after just more than four years in that job.
In a news release Friday from the court, Gould, who had been a Yuma County Superior Court judge, did not cite a reason for leaving. He is only 57; judges and justices can serve until age 70.
Gould was one of two justices selected by Ducey in 2016 after the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature agreed to expand the bench from five to seven. That appointment, along with John Lopez IV, who had been the state’s solicitor general, gave the governor his second and third justices on the bench.
Ducey said at the time his decision to sign legislation expanding the court — and giving him two new picks — was not political.
“We have not packed the court,’’ the governor said even though both new justices are Republicans like Ducey, and the five justices sitting at the time said the expansion is not merited. “We have right-sized the court.”
Gould has been the author of a number of controversial rulings.
In 2018, he wrote a precedent-setting decision that Arizona companies have no duty to protect family members from exposure to toxic materials their employees bring home on their work clothes.
The majority rejected arguments by survivors of Ernest Quiroz that Reynolds Metal Co. should be held legally responsible for his mesothelioma, a form of cancer frequently associated with asbestos exposure, and his eventual death. His survivors argued he got the disease due to the fact that his father, with whom he lived for a time, was exposed on numerous occasions to asbestos-containing products and machinery, all of which contaminated his father’s clothing, tools, car, body and general surroundings.
Gould, writing the majority ruling, said the company owed no duty to protect anyone other than its own employees.
More recently, he authored a ruling that anti-discrimination laws do not trump the rights of business owners to refuse to provide certain services to gays. Gould said the sincerely held religious beliefs of the owners of a calligraphy studio protect them from having to produce custom wedding invitations for same-sex couples.
Even before being seated on the state’s high court, he also wrote some decisions that got attention.
In 2017, while on the state Court of Appeals, he wrote that the mother of one of the firefighters killed in the 2013 Yarnell Hill blaze had no right to sue the state for her son’s death.
Gould, writing for the unanimous panel, said the allegations by Marcia McKee show “a series of negligent and grossly negligent acts’’ that, if proven, culminated in the death of her son, Grant, and 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew. But he said in order to sue she had to show “willful misconduct’’ by those involved, something Gould said she had not produced.
In a separate appellate court case, Gould found himself in the minority on the issue of whether accused sex offenders are entitled to bail.
The majority, in overturning a no-bail law, concluded that simply being charged with a crime, even if there is evidence of the person’s guilt, is legally insufficient to keep someone locked up. Gould rejected the argument being held without bail is a constitutional violation, saying the purpose of the law “is to protect victims and the community,’’ meaning it is “regulatory, not punitive.’’
Before becoming a judge, Gould was chief civil deputy in the Yuma County Attorney’s Office. He also was a civil litigator in private practice from 1990 through 1994.
His announcement paves the way for Ducey to appoint a replacement. The governor must choose from nominees sent to him by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which is dominated by people put there by Ducey.