As Election Nears: 5 Questions For Justice Of The Peace Candidates

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The Payson Roundup asked each justice of the peace candidate the same questions in hopes of better educating readers in time for the primary election on Sept. 12. Justice of the peace candidates serve a four-year term.

Early voting is available now. The deadline to register to vote in the primary election was Aug. 14.

Question: What is the Rim Country's most serious crime problem and how do you plan to use your office to address it?

Dan Hill

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Dan Hill

A. Here in the Rim Country drugs are the 'root of all evil.' The use, manufacturing, growing and distribution of the drugs are illegal of themselves. But many of the other problems we face, especially domestic violence, find their roots in drug and alcohol abuse as well. I believe that the Justice Court can help in this problem by graduating sentences so that they become harsher each time an offender returns to court.

I was recently approached by someone who thought there was a contradiction in my campaign material. My brochure proclaims I am "compassionate," yet, I have been advocating the use of jail time as one of the sentencing options that should be used more often than it currently is. I see no conflict.

Many crimes become automatic felonies the third time they are committed.

The status quo would be to fine them the first two times, and send them on to Superior Court as a felony the third time. I say, what if they spent a week or two, or even a month, in jail the second time? What if that was enough for them to wake up, and realize they have to change their life?

If I have prevented them from repeating the crime, if I have saved them from having a felony record with all it's attending consequences, if I have spared the community, and the victims, from suffering from their criminal activity ... is this not compassionate?

Dorothy Little

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Dorothy Little

A. All crime is serious, the more serious crimes in the Rim Country are felony charges, which include meth manufacturing, sale and use; these felonies are tried and sentenced in the Superior Court. The justice of the peace conducts an initial appearance and determines release conditions.

The crimes the justice of the peace deals with on a continuous basis are generally alcohol-related, such as driving under the influence and underage consumption. These violations carry mandatory penalties that must be imposed by the court.

In addition, I have implemented a cognitive skills workbook for first offenders of underage consumption to reduce recidivism. Preliminary review indicates it is working.

Barry Standifird

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Barry Standifird

A. Without a doubt methamphetamine abuse (and other drugs) is our most serious crime problem and probably ties into most other crimes committed in this area. However, the Justice Court only has jurisdiction over the setting of bail and preliminary hearings (unless convicted as a misdemeanor). Until recently, first-time drug offenders could not be placed in jail for use or possession. However, the Legislature adopted paragraph "G" of A.R.S. 13-901.01, which finally allows a jail term for those who fail or refuse to complete counseling. Meth is an evil master that requires serious, long-term counseling. As justice of the peace, I will see that counseling requirements are fulfilled by utilizing the jail terms now allowed in paragraph "G" when necessary.

Production, transportation, and sale of drugs do not have the protections of simple use charges and I consider them to be dangerous offenses to this community. Obviously bail will be set accordingly. Then these matters proceed to Superior Court.

I have a bachelor's and master's degree in psychology and have witnessed firsthand the damage caused by drug abuse to children, adults and families in this community. I will continue to use all my education, training and experience to help as many people as possible.

Question: At the Aug. 10 forum, the safety of the court was mentioned as a concern. What would you do to make the facility safer for the staff, victims, witnesses and visitors?

Dan Hill

A. A member of the court staff should be converted to the position of bailiff. A professional, uniformed bailiff would provide the safety and security you expect when you enter the court.

Dorothy Little

A. Security is an issue countywide. I have researched this issue. We can obtain security equipment from the U.S. Marshal's office at a reduced cost, however we must have personnel to operate this equipment. In addition we hold a safety meeting for staff at least once a year, which is conducted by law enforcement to review the actions we can take to assure the safety of witnesses and victims. Staff is very cognitive to cases that are set each day; we keep parties separated prior to hearings; we also have law enforcement present at a hearing if we have a concern or any indication a problem may arise.

Barry Standifird

A. Every courtroom I practice in has better security than Payson Justice Court. Security costs money and thus is not a "front burner issue." Regardless, our court building is not designed to provide adequate security. Thus, when trouble is expected the best thing to do is transfer to the old court (across the street behind the jail). It is small, but more easily secured. Sometimes a law-enforcement presence is all that is needed to deter potential problems in the courtroom.

Regarding our Justice Court, there are inexpensive methods to create better security. First, when anticipating a problem, you secure all ingress/egress by closing all doors but one going into the courtroom. Second, you properly train court personnel to not open secured doors, don't leave potential weapons accessible. While very costly, it would also be nice to wand incoming persons on heavy days or when expecting trouble. However, even Gila Superior Court does not use a wand due to the expense.

Question: How accessible should court information be to the public?

Dan Hill

A. With the exception of juvenile records, court information should be completely accessible to the public.

Dorothy Little

A. Criminal and civil records have always been open to the public; they are now more accessible with the addition of the Internet. My concern is the public might not fully understand what the records indicate. The publication of records in the newspapers is a beneficial service provided because I believe it is a deterrent for many individuals not to commit a crime. However, what is published is only a small portion of the caseload the court handles.

Barry Standifird

A. We live in a free country with a transparent government and the Justice Court is no different. Further, most of what is available in Justice Court can already be found on the Internet free of charge. Regardless, the Justice Court must be careful not to divulge information which may be protected by statute. For example: involuntary commitment for mental health issues (A.R.S. title 36), Child Protective Services actions, Juvenile Delinquency actions and lastly victims of crimes have certain privacy rights (A.R.S. 13-4434). Many of these actions fall to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. However, they often begin as misdemeanors in Justice Court. Thus, care must be taken not to infringe upon legitimate rights to privacy.

Lastly, public access to courts and records instills confidence in the system. The public can examine and witness that no preferential treatment is occurring and no good ol' boy syndrome exists when the courts are transparent.

Question: What is the most effective way to stop repeat offenders?

Dan Hill

A. This is a major platform of my campaign. Creative and innovative sentencing is the answer. We must get away from our current pay and go court philosophy. If fining someone didn't work the first time there's no reason to believe it will work the second, third, or fourth time. I want to make a difference in people's lives and break their cycle of criminal behavior.

There are two ways to do this: I want to hold perpetrators responsible for their crimes though innovative sentences that become harsher with each time a person returns to the court. I do not believe that repeat offenders should be given repeat sentences. People respond differently to different disciplines. The Justice Court has an amazing amount of flexibility. There is any number of options available. It's not simply a matter of setting a dollar amount for the fine. There is also community service, jail time, and educational opportunities.

Dorothy Little

A. What works for one individual may not work for the next individual, so you have to look at the person, their circumstances and the charge each time. Many times repeat offenders have an underlying medical condition, which must be addressed. I work very closely with the counselors at Southwest Behavioral, the Time Out Shelter and other local organizations as well as the defendants. Sometimes shelter, food or even medicine is needed; we all work together to better understand the underlying problems and to facilitate rehabilitation.

Barry Standifird

A. A judge's ability to effect real change is only limited by the judge's lack of education, training and experience. Over the years, I have witnessed many ways to curb repeat offenses. Above all, if the first punishment did not work, a judge must do something different. Title 13 allows class one misdemeanors to be charged as felonies on subsequent offenses and some charges are required to be charged as felonies (i.e. Third offense Domestic Violence, and DUI etc. ...). We must take action on the second offense in order to prevent a third. Having practiced in Superior Court for many years, I will explain that a felony conviction on your record results in losing your job (and most potential jobs); you end up evicted/foreclosure; divorces occur frequently because of the financial strain of a felony; you serve a lengthy jail term (4 months minimum for domestic violence) and are prison eligible. I believe it is unconscionable for a person to serve their first jail term on Superior Court charges having never served a single day for prior multiple misdemeanor offenses. At the second offense the offender must be given a taste of jail.

This combined with education by the judge can appropriately curb repeat offenses. We must not be afraid to use our jail under these circumstances. This may actually prevent future felony offenses, save some families a great deal of pain and suffering, and prevent further burdens to welfare programs. Creativity on the bench is a function of training, education and experience. It cannot be taught or learned in a few weeks of new judge training. Appeals cost money and waste valuable court time and resources. If you would like to see more information and ideas please see my website at www.barry4jp.com.

Question: How do you plan to provide community outreach/education services to the schools, clubs and organizations? What topics will be among your priorities?

Dan Hill

A. Because of my heavy involvement with the youth of our community I was named the 2003 Payson Man of the Year, and the 2004 and 2006 Payson Rotarian of the Year. I have also received the Scoutmaster of Merit distinction, and the Scout Leader Training Award from the Grand Canyon Council of the Boy Scouts of America. I will continue my involvement with the youth of our community, but my influence will be stepped up a notch as justice of the peace. I fully intend to wield that influence to reach out to as many schools, and youth groups as will have me. I will stress the absolute necessity of staying in school, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and developing a good work ethic. These things should be taught in the home, but all too often in today's society young people are not learning responsibility, self control, and discipline. The court becomes something of a surrogate parent. I will take that duty very seriously, and be proactive in helping develop good citizenship in our young people, before they come before me on the bench.

Dorothy Little

A. I believe in prevention through education for only to young people but the entire community. Criminal records can affect anyone for the rest of their life; individuals need to understand this as well as their rights when they come to court. In addition to explaining the court system; what we do as a court and the services that are offered, we will create a better understanding of the court system for everyone.

I have developed some scenarios relating to traffic and criminal violations and how they affect a person's future. I will work with the schools and the community regarding the importance of these issues and together we will develop an education plan. I believe information and education can be utilized as a great deterrent in keeping young people away from crime.

Barry Standifird

A. I will stay the course. In my 12 years of practicing law I have come to know the legal needs of this community. I have been in the Gila County trenches for a long time. I am the only candidate that is licensed and allowed to give legal advice. I have given numerous seminars on a wide range of complex legal issues to the residents of Northern Gila County (free of charge) and I will continue to do so. I will continue working in the elementary schools and high schools giving legal instruction and serving on advisory committees. I will continue working with the Boy Scouts in this area and scout master training (remember 98 percent of juvenile delinquents before the courts are not involved in scouting). My wife and I will continue donating time and efforts to a variety of youth centered programs which teach leadership and core moral values. As you can see, the youth of this community are my priority and they will continue to be long into the future.

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