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High court censures Lester Pearce for prohibited campaign activity

Brother of former Senator Russell Pearce fined
Lester Pearce (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Former Mesa Justice of the Peace Lester Pearce has agreed to a low-level form of discipline for getting involved in the 2011 Legislative District 19 recall election of his brother, former Senate President Russell Pearce.

Pearce, who resigned from office in April in an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing in the written resolution, but he acknowledges that his actions could be “construed as political activity, endorsement or support of his brother in his capacity as a candidate.”

READ THE RESOLUTION

The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday accepted the Commission on Judicial Conduct’s recommendation for a censure, which is effectively a black mark on Pearce’s record. He was also ordered to pay $1,500 to cover the cost of the proceedings.

Judges are prohibited from making speeches on behalf of political candidates, endorsing anyone for political office and taking part in a campaign other than his own for election or retention for office.

Pearce acknowledged he accompanied his niece while she gathered petition signatures for Republican candidate Olivia Cortes and he spoke at a LD19 Precinct Committee meeting where the topic of discussion was whether to adopt a resolution in support of his brother and against the recall.

The agreement states that Pearce doesn’t recall whether he spoke in support of his brother, but there are witnesses who will say he did and there are witnesses who will say he didn’t.

Sen. Jerry Lewis, a Mesa Republican, defeated Russell Pearce in the recall election.

George Riemer, the commission’s executive director, said Pearce will be eligible to run again for Justice of Peace.

Pearce, a member of the Arizona Senate from 1989 to 1994, began serving as the North Mesa Justice of the Peace in 1997.

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