Brutinel has reached the judicial zenith in Prescott, where he has served as the presiding judge of Yavapai County Superior Court since 2004 and the court’s presiding juvenile judge since 1996.
And he puts a lot of stock into being a Superior Court judge because he has direct contact with the suspected murderers, damaged litigants and broken families who come to his court daily. It’s a perspective he believes would be advantageous to the high court, where he promises to treat each case as if it were the most important one ever.
“A Superior Court judge’s job is a little bit different than an Appellate Court judge’s. I see people,” Brutinel, 52, said. “I have to look people in the eye when I tell them what the decision is going to be.”
His 28-year legal career has been in Prescott, first as a sole practitioner who represented Indian tribes, real estate brokerages and small businesses, such as retail stores and construction contractors.
He was appointed to the bench in 1996 to fill out a retiring judge’s term and he won his first election that year. And even though he has been re-elected three times, he believes firmly in the merit system, which is in operation in Maricopa and Pima counties.
Brutinel’s work isn’t confined to Prescott.
Earlier this year, he was appointed to preside over a case in which Maricopa County Superior Court was looking to hold the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in contempt of court for not getting inmates to court on time.
Brutinel worked out a settlement agreement that resolved issues on this case and a previous one with the same issues.
In his Supreme Court application he wrote that it was a contentious case at first, but it showed how the courts and the Sheriff’s Office could come together and find solutions.
Brutinel’s roots are small town. His parents are from rural communities and he practiced law in Prescott. He said one of the pleasures of such an existence is being active in community projects.
In recent years his life has centered on the activities of his children, but three of them have left for college and the youngest is a sophomore in high school, he said.
Friday nights in the fall are for a big dinner with his extended family capped off with a football game.
Small towns are also good for keeping him accountable as a judge.
“I get accountability in the grocery store,” he said. “You see the people on a regular basis.”
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