Back around the turn of the century, our forefathers wrote our State Constitution. Some 90 years later, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court decided to interpret the Constitution as not allowing anyone other than an attorney (lawyer) to serve as a pro-tem (temporary) Justice of the Peace.
The Constitution clearly states that a Justice of the Peace need not be a lawyer. But the Chief Justice's ruling some 90 years after the Constitution was written, interpreted it to say that someone filling in for, or helping the J.P. as pro-tem judge, must be a lawyer.
Not just anyone can serve as a pro-tem for the Justice Courts. They must be qualified and be appointed by the presiding Superior Court judge, and the presider will not appoint someone that is not qualified.
As an example, I have served as a Justice of the Peace for 13 years, but if I retired today I would not be eligible to apply for pro-tem status. I could not help the person that replaces me even though I have 13 years of experience as Justice of the Peace because I am not a lawyer.
In many of the small outlying communities, there is not an attorney living within 50 miles of the court who is willing to serve as a pro-tem, and the J.P. cannot even go on vacation, or have a sick day, without paying a lawyer pro-tem to drive miles and miles to cover their court. This is costing the taxpayer thousands and thousands of dollars.
Proposition 103 will undo the Chief Justice's ruling, and allow a non-lawyer, if they are qualified and if appointed by the Superior Court presiding judge, to sit as a pro-tem J.P.
So does it really make sense to require a tougher standard for a part-time Justice of the Peace than the Constitution requires for a full-time Justice of the Peace?
The election is Nov. 2 and I would urge everyone to vote. If you believe a part-time judge should have the same qualification as a full-time judge, then vote Yes on Prop. 103.
Judge Quentin Tolby, Presiding Maricopa County Justice of the Peace