Initial results show voters rejected three judges’ bids for retention in the Maricopa County Superior Court.
Judge Stephen M. Hopkins lost his reelection with only 38% voting to retain him after 15 commissioners on the Commission on Judicial Performance Review found Hopkins to be unfit for the bench.
Voters also rejected Judge Rusty Crandell, with 51% voting against his retention and Judge Howard Sukenic, with rejection from 59% of voters.
Crandell may stand a chance in securing reelection as hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted.
Hopkins and Crandell oversaw criminal cases. Sukenic worked in family law.
It is rare for voters to fire judges. The last time a judge was ousted was in 2014, after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Norris received a rating from the commission saying he did not meet standards.
Hopkins stood as an outlier as 73 other judges met judicial standards, according to assessments from commissioners, though both Sukenic and Crandell had commissioners vote against them.
Hopkins’ assessment stems from a handful of complaints from 2019 to 2020 about Hopkins’ demeanor in the courtroom, claiming he was impatient and impolite toward defendants, prosecutors and attorneys. Another complaint said Hopkins allegedly denied the right to be heard.
Hopkins violated statute in the Code on Judicial Conduct requiring judges to act, “in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” and to be, “patient, dignified to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers,” among other court staff.
Fifteen commissioners found Hopkins “did not meet” judicial standards, while seven found he did meet standards and another seven did not vote on the matter.
Sukenic dodged an unfit rating, but nine commissioners voted that he did not meet standards. He scored low on temperament in the courtroom.
Crandell received two unfit votes from commissioners and scored poorly overall on judicial performance reviews but only received two negative votes from commissioners.
In contrast to the three Maricopa County judges, Arizona Supreme Court Justice William Montgomery, who received the worst judicial performance score in history, was spared as 57% voted to retain his position in initial reports.
Update: This story has been revised to include updated numbers.