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Change, for the better, has come to Pima courts

Among my goals as presiding judge over the past five years has been the improvement and stabilization of the administration of all of the courts in Pima County. We have tried to do this with a combination of placing highly competent people in key administrative positions and by insuring predictability, fairness, efficiency and uniformity in our written court policies and procedures.
We have recognized the need to continue our transition from a relatively small court system run largely by the force of the personality of the person in charge to a larger, more urban court system requiring more institutionalized administrative rules and procedures.
As to the Superior Court, we have taken steps to enhance efficiency, consistency and cohesion within the court by consolidating Juvenile Court departments with parallel downtown Superior Court departments such as human resources and finance. We have also worked cooperatively with the clerk of the Superior Court to improve court operations through the use of technology, and to enhance fine and fee collection. The downtown Superior Court, Juvenile Court and the clerk of the Superior Court have worked together to achieve an unprecedented level of cooperation in jointly promoting fairness and equity for court employees in the area of job classification, market based compensation and personnel management rules and procedures.
Much credit for the success of our efforts in all these areas belongs to our very capable Court Administrator Kent Batty, and his administrative staff. Those dedicated judges who have voluntarily served as bench presiding judges have provided leadership that has enabled the court to continue to process an ever-increasing number of cases in efficient, innovative ways. Judge Nanette Warner has established a mental health court in an effort to reduce recidivism among those defendants with mental health issues through greater cooperation and coordination with treatment providers in the community. We now have two drug courts in operation presided over by Judge Pro-Tem Barbara Sattler and Commissioner Karen Adam. Through the able guidance of Presiding Juvenile Court Judges Hector Campoy and Patricia Escher, the Juvenile Court has been and continues to be a model for progressive programs, including those designed to reduce the time to achieve permanent placement of children removed from their parents and addressing over representation of minorities in juvenile detention.
The presiding judge also has supervisory responsibility over the limited jurisdiction courts such as the Pima County Consolidated Justice Courts, the Tucson City Court and the other municipal courts in Pima County. The Justice Court is in the best administrative condition that it has ever been in due to the outstanding leadership of Presiding Justice of the Peace Jim Angiulo and Court Administrator Lisa Royal. They have been responsible for improvement in every area of operation, most notably in revenue collection, case flow management, DUI case processing, and a recently created domestic violence court.
The Tucson City Court is also in very capable administrative hands with Presiding Magistrate Tony Riojas and Court Administrator Joan Harphant. This court has taken the lead in many innovative programs. Most notably, Tucson City Court initiated the first electronic traffic citation program in Arizona, which allows the police to issue paperless citations that are electronically transmitted to the court. It was one of a select group of pilot courts to participate in the statewide FARE collection program that has brought increased revenue of $12 million from fine collections over the past three years. The critical need of both the consolidated Justice Court and Tucson City Court for new facilities is being addressed with the ongoing planning and construction of a joint Justice/City Court Complex approved by the voters as part of the 2004 county bond election. It is expected to be completed by 2010.
While I view our administrative accomplishments as very important, it has been just as important to maintain the position of dignity and respect the courts of this county have enjoyed and continue to enjoy in our community. We who work in the courts are aware that the public expects and trusts that the courts will act fairly and impartially, and that we must constantly strive to maintain this trust as we conduct the court’s business. To remain fair and impartial, the courts must continue to be free of outside pressure and influence, political or otherwise. While recognizing our obligation to cooperate fully with other branches of government, we must also be vigilant and unwavering in our resolve to protect and preserve the courts’ Constitutional role as an equal, independent third branch of government. I believe we have done this.
It has been an honor for me to serve as the presiding judge of the courts of this county for the past five years. The honor is in large part due to the fine women and men who serve as judges in these courts. The people of Pima County can be proud of our excellent judges as they are among the best in the state. I remain indebted to those judges, as well as to all court administrators and employees for their invaluable support during my tenure. I congratulate my successor, Judge Jan Kearney, on her appointment as presiding judge, and I am certain that under her guidance the courts in Pima County will continue to move forward to meet new challenges and will remain among the best courts in the state.
Judge John Leonardo has been the presiding judge for Pima County for five years. His term ends Jan. 27. Judge Leonardo’s successor as presiding judge will be Judge Jan Kearney.

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