Barbara Mundell, Maricopa County's presiding judge, recently fired two of her court commissioners, Wes Peterson and David Anderson. Unlike Superior Court judges, commissioners, who have similar responsibilities, are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the presiding judge -- and can be fired with or without a good reason.
In this instance, Mundell (pictured) and her minions are keeping tight-lipped, according to court spokeswoman Karen Arra. "The court is not commenting," she told us.
But other folks in the courthouse are speculating hard as to the reason that the well-respected Peterson may have gotten the ax after eight years on the bench: the fact that he is married to Sally Wells, chief assistant to Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Everyone, and we mean everyone that we spoke to about the firings (this included a handful of current and former judges, and others who work at the courthouse) couldn't come up with any obvious reason for the firings except (in Peterson's case) the Wells connection.
Thomas has been trying for years to make a public whipping boy/girl of the county's judiciary, and Wells has been one of his main messengers. Her constant chirping on Thomas' behalf no doubt has won her few friends at the courthouse.
Maybe that's a red herring, maybe it's not. But in these overtly political times -- with a brazenly ambitious elected official (Thomas) and a beleaguered judiciary constantly, it seems, on the defensive -- who knows?