As unsophisticated, marble-mouthed and ham-fisted former state Senate President Russell Pearce is as a politician, his brother, Justice of the Peace Lester Pearce, makes him look like Jack Kennedy by comparison.
You may recall that Judge Pearce was linked to the Tea Party plot to put sham candidate Olivia Cortes on the recall ballot last year, so as to dilute the vote in favor of Senator Pearce.
The plot failed, of course, exposed both by the media and the pro-bono legal efforts of Chandler lawyer Tom Ryan. And Pearce's main rival, current state Senator Jerry Lewis, prevailed.
Now Judge Pearce wants to run for Maricopa County Supervisor in District Two, the seat held by Don Stapley, who has thrown his helmet in the proverbial ring to be the 2012 GOP nominee for the newly formed Ninth Congressional District.
See, Judge Pearce recently filed paperwork for an exploratory committee with the county. This for a possible supervisor run.
But Pearce comes with a lot of ethical baggage. As I revealed in a series of blog items during the recall campaign, Pearce actively campaigned for his brother in direct violation of the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct, which proscribes judges from working for or endorsing any candidacy save their own.
There is no exception in the code for family members.
Indeed, the code specifically states that,
"Although members of the families of judges and judicial candidates are free to engage in their own political activity, there is no 'family exception' to the prohibition . . . against a judge or candidate publicly endorsing candidates for public office."
And yet Judge Pearce apparently violated this rule. Not only was he present at various public events in support of his brother as the latter campaigned, he openly stumped for his sibling at an infamous Legislative District 19 meeting of Republicans held on September 15, 2011.
This was recorded in the meeting's minutes, where it plainly states, "Lester Pearce, North Mesa Justice Court - Lester Pearce spoke in support of Senator Russell Pearce and against the recall."
There were numerous witnesses to this, and Pearce actually stuck around and argued with at least one Jerry Lewis supporter in attendance. Videographer Dennis Gilman and I were present for most of the meeting, though we missed Pearce's speech on behalf of his brother, which occurred early on.
However, Gilman did capture Judge Pearce on film as he blocked us from speaking to a woman who had gathered signatures for Olivia Cortes.
It was not our last confrontation with the pugnacious justice. At the Lewis-Pearce debate at the East Valley Institute of Technology, the judge aggressively grabbed Gilman's camera when he became annoyed with our line of questioning.
Is this behavior becoming a judge? Well, the state's code of judicial conduct also states that,
"A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety."
Additionally, the code notes: "A judge should expect to be the subject of public scrutiny that might be viewed as burdensome if applied to other citizens, and must accept the restrictions imposed by the code."
Granted, the judge's loss of temper may be a gray area, but the rule preventing judges from campaigning for others is not.
Not only did Pearce speak on his brother's behalf at the LD 19 meeting and attend campaign events with him, several sources have indicated to me that the judge approached them directly at their homes, haranguing them to remove a Lewis sign from their yards, and/or to place a Russell Pearce sign on their lawns.
Pearce also admitted to driving around with a niece as she solicited signatures to place Cortes' name on the ballot.
In advancing Cortes as a diversionary candidate, Russell Pearce's family members, supporters and campaign operatives may have run afoul of Arizona law, specifically, Arizona Revised Statute 16-1006, which makes it unlawful for a person "knowingly by . . . any corrupt means, either directly or directly . . . to defraud an elector by deceiving and causing him to vote for a different person for an office or for a different measure than he intended or desired to vote for."
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Judge Pearce must have known what his niece was up to. Also, his own daughter solicited signatures for Cortes. The judge has denied helping solicit signatures for Cortes, himself.
Nevertheless, Lester Pearce's behavior during his brother's failed campaign to save his senate seat argues against the judge being a credible candidate for county supervisor.
So, too, do his wacky, far-right views of the U.S. Constitution, which hold that Anglo-Saxons comprised the lost tribes of Israel and that our constitution is somehow descended from Moses.
But having such nutty opinions does not run afoul of the canons of judicial conduct. Campaigning for your brother's political survival? That's another matter. One, hopefully, Arizona's Commission on Judicial Misconduct will address before Judge Pearce's term is up.