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In rare outcome, Maricopa County voters fire judge

JVoters in Maricopa County fired the first judge in decades and only the third one since the inception of the merit and retention system.

With 92 percent of precincts reporting, 57 percent have voted against keeping Judge Benjamin Norris on the bench while 43 percent say he deserves to stay.   The decision will take effect at the end of the year.

Judge Benjamin Norris, Maricopa County Superior Court, family court

Judge Benjamin Norris, Maricopa County Superior Court, family court

Norris, a family-court judge, got this year’s worst  job performance evaluation in Maricopa County from the Commission on Judicial Performance Review, a 30-member commission that rates judges and passes along its evaluation of whether a judge is fit for the bench to voters.

The commission also deemed Judge Catherine Woods of Pima County Superior Court unfit for the job, but voters in that county kept her, 59 percent to 41 percent.

Voters have removed only two judges, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Fred Hyder and Division One Court of Appeals Judge Gary Nelson, since 1974 when the state started using a system of merit selection and judicial retention elections in Maricopa and Pima counties. Pinal County joined the system in 2012 after reaching a large enough population.

This year, there were 69 judges up for retention. No other judge under the system was close to being removed.

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