When Gila County Superior Court Judge Edd Dawson announced last year that his retirement would be effective in January, 2002, he had three years remaining in his term.
It was for Dawson's seat that Judge Pro-Tem David Colby of Payson was campaigning when he was fired by Gila County Presiding Judge Robert Duber last December.
Four Gila County attorneys, including Colby and Gila County's freshly-elected county attorney, James Hazel of Pine, threw their hats into the ring to win Gov. Jane Hull's appointment to the seat.
Hazel won. But now he needs voter approval to complete the remainder of Dawson's term.
Because the the judgeship is a two-man race, pitting Republican Hazel against Democrat Peter J. Cahill, each of the two candidates' names will appear on their own party's ballots for the primary election to be held Sept. 10.
At that time, they will likely be selected by the voters in their respective parties, and will then run against each other in the Nov. 5 general election, where there are no party lines to worry about, anyone can vote for anybody ... and Hazel will either remain on the job, or move over for Cahill.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Years in Arizona: 28
"The only bad thing I need to disclose right away is that I'm from Globe," quips longtime attorney Peter J. Cahill, who has announced his candidacy for the remaining two years of the Superior Court term opened by last year's retirement of Superior Court Judge Edward Dawson.
Still, Cahill added, "I have the breadth of experience to do the job. In my 26 years practicing law in Gila County, I have tried civil and criminal matters, including domestic and juvenile cases."
Cahill is the lone Democrat to file nomination papers for the Division I court seat. He has attracted a wide array of support, including that of two significant Republicans: former Arizona Chief Justice Thomas A. Zlaket and former Arizona Attorney General Darrell F. Smith.
"Peter has a long history of efforts to improve the delivery of legal services," Zlaket said.
"He has performed thoughtfully and admirably on the Supreme Court's Lawyer Disciplinary Commission. He has been aggressive in the sanctioning of bad lawyers. He has been a leader in pressing for opening the system to clients," Zlaket said.
Added Smith: "Peter is an excellent lawyer who cares for his clients. He will be an excellent judge."
Gila County Sheriff John Armer said, "I know Peter Cahill to be an honorable man who is sincere and enthusiastic in his concern for the welfare and safety of the community. I enthusiastically support his candidacy for Superior Court judge."
A 1970 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1973 graduate of the New England School of Law in Boston, Mass., Cahill has been a leader in seeking increased lawyer accountability to clients, and last year urged the Supreme Court to move in that direction.
The Supreme Court's Strategic Agenda now includes a goal of giving clients notice and an opportunity to be heard in lawyer disciplinary matters.
In May, Chief Justice Charles E. Jones appointed Cahill to chair a committee to recommend changes in the court's rules on disciplining lawyers.
Cahill has practiced in Gila County since 1975, serving as an attorney for the Pinal and Gila Legal Aid Society. He entered private practice in 1981 and joined Thompson, Dalton & DeRose in 1985.
He was president of the Arizona Bar Foundation in 1990, and in 1999 was elected a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation an honor limited to one-third of one percent of the lawyers in a state.
Cahill is one of the founders and current president of the Globe-Miami Habitat for Humanity, as well as acting president of the statewide Habitat organization. Cahill also spent four years on the Cobre Valley Community Hospital Board of Directors, including two years as chair.
Cahill has lived in Arizona since 1974, when he was assigned to Tucson as a VISTA volunteer. After one year, he joined the legal aid society in Globe.
He is married to Terry L. Chandler, the former chief criminal deputy for the Gila County Attorney's Office and former Chief Assistant United States Attorney.
James Hazel, Jr.
Party affiliation: Republican
Years in Arizona: 16
Superior Court Judge James Hazel, Jr., is seeking re-election to the Gila County Superior Court.
Hazel, a Republican, was the Gila County Attorney until December, when Gov. Jane Hull appointed him to the seat of retiring Judge Edward Dawson.
"I am eager to continue to implement ways to make the court system more accessible to the citizens of Gila County," said Hazel, who lives in Pine with his wife, Barbara, and their five children.
Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Hazel received his Bachelor's degree in history from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and received his law degree from the University of Toledo in 1986.
He began practicing law in 1987 with the City of Scottsdale (1987-1988), followed by work for the City of Phoenix (1988-1990); private practice in Payson (1990-2000); Gila County Attorney (2001). Hazel served as pro tem judge in the City of Phoenix Municipal Court from June 1996 to June, 2001 handling misdemeanor cases.
Hazel is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a criminal law specialist, a certification held by fewer than one percent of the state's attorneys. He also has served as a pro tem judge for the City of Phoenix Municipal Court.
Hazel presides over the majority of Superior Court cases in Northern Gila County, including criminal adult matters, juvenile matters and civil cases.
Outside the courtroom, Hazel is active in the community as a Boy Scout troop leader and Little League baseball coach.
"It has been an honor to serve the people of Gila County, and I look forward to continued service as Superior Court judge," Hazel said, noting that the court system serves an important role in protecting children and families.
"I'm asking for the support of the voters for re-election to the Gila County Superior Court for a number of reasons," said Hazel said.
"I am totally committed to judging litigants by their actions and not by who they are or who they know; holding criminals accountable for their actions; ensuring the victim's voice is heard in court proceedings; providing all the citizens of Gila County an opportunity to access the court in the area in which they reside; and conducting jury trials in Payson and Globe to provide equal travel time and expenses for the witnesses and the jurors in Gila County."
Since Hazel's county attorney appointment by the Governor, he said, "I have been assigned cases in Payson, Northern and Southern Gila County. For the first time, the citizens of Payson have a Superior Court Judge that resides in their community.
"I am working to make improvements in the court facilities in Payson. Plans are currently under way to add a jury room and modern restrooms facilities in the courtroom.
"I have the qualifications and experience necessary to serve all the citizens of Gila County," he said. "I have served in all aspects of the court system from being a prosecutor, a lawyer in private practice to pro tem judge ... I am a criminal law specialist as certified by the State Bar of Arizona. The experience in criminal law is invaluable to a judge as a great percentage of cases handled are criminal matters.
"Based upon my background, experience, and strong desire to provide services to all the citizens of Gila County," Hazel said, "I am asking for their support in my efforts for re-election."