Judge Knot

JP posse sticks to its guns in decades-long battle to clean up it judicial corral

That said, at this point, nobody in Arizona is seriously pushing legislation that all JPs must be lawyers even though many in the legal community think JPs should have a law degree.

"We ask that doctors go to medical school," Myers says. "I'm not sure what's wrong with asking that judges go to law school."

Provine does support increasing requirements. She supports the idea that judges should have to pass a competency test. She recommends JPs be given extensive legal education upon election. (Arizona's JPs do receive about the equivalent of three credit hours of legal education after election. They also must attend the yearly judicial conference.)

During his tenure as Maricopa County's  presiding Superior Court judge, Robert Myers was often at odds with the Justices of the Peace he oversaw.
During his tenure as Maricopa County's presiding Superior Court judge, Robert Myers was often at odds with the Justices of the Peace he oversaw.
During his tenure as Maricopa County's  presiding Superior Court judge, Robert Myers was often at odds with the Justices of the Peace he oversaw.
During his tenure as Maricopa County's presiding Superior Court judge, Robert Myers was often at odds with the Justices of the Peace he oversaw.

Unified court systems tend to work better than autonomous confederacies, she says.

Arizona's pay structure for JPs would appear to be screwy and rife for corruption, she adds.

Some JPs, particularly Tom Freestone, agree that JPs should be paid a straight salary rather than basing it on how many cases they push through.

Marty Shultz, who led the 1995 reform push, doesn't believe the Justice Courts have come nearly far enough in addressing their problems. He still believes strongly that the massive reform movement of 1995 must be reborn.

Even with the JP lobby apparently gaining even more power, he believes that the recommendations made by his commission will one day be put in place in Arizona.

Shultz believes the key will be the redrawing of Arizona's legislative districts to better reflect the movement of the state's population into the Valley.

That anti-gerrymandering redistricting, begun last year with voter approval of Proposition 106, will create equal-population districts that will be used to draw up 30 legislative districts by next year's election.

Stronger urban representation, he believes, will mean more representation for college-educated urban professionals who have higher expectations of their court system.

"Arizona is changing," he says. "I think the time will come pretty soon when Arizonans will demand that the lower-courts change, too."

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