SHOW LOW—The two candidates for Show Low Justice of the Peace appeared at a forum at the city of Show Low Council chambers on Wednesday.
The forum was sponsored by the Navajo County Bar Association and moderated by Judge Robert Higgins now Justice of the Peace in the Pinetop Justice Court and retired Navajo County superior court presiding judge. The precinct includes Show Low, Linden, Pinedale, Clay Springs and White Mountain Lakes.
The two candidates by alphabetical order were Scott Tipton who is currently the elected constable for the Show Low Justice Court precinct and in his 12th year of service. He retired from the Tempe Police Department after having been “severely injured in a shooting,” he said, is a native Arizonan, had worked as a real estate agent in the White Mountains beginning in 2006 until the real estate crash, and chairs the ethics board of the statewide constable organization. That board hears complaints about constables. His current job includes serving process, he is trained in conflict resolution and believes his experience in real estate has helped him understand landlord tenant law, disputes about which are heard in the justice courts as forcible detainer cases, meaning evictions.
Dawn Wilson has recently resigned her seat on the Show Low City Council to comply with Arizona law in order to run for the JP position. She has lived in Show Low for 21 years and was appointed to the council after a vacancy; she also served on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Wilson served as a law enforcement officer in Kansas for eight years, holds a master’s degree in administration of justice, an associate degree from Northern Pioneer College, worked as a private investigator, including contract work for police, and involvement in the guardian ad litem process in the superior court. She is also the president of the Lions Club in Show Low.
The questions Higgins posed to the candidates dealt with judicial philosophy in general, how to avoid the appearance of impropriety (a big ethical responsibility of a judge) and how to handle difficult litigants, including difficult attorneys.
Tipton produced a chuckle from the audience when he facetiously remarked that he’s never come across a difficult attorney.
The candidates agreed on just about everything; the purpose of the criminal sentence was to make the victim whole and impress upon the wrongdoer the consequences of their actions. Wilson used the word “creative” when discussing sentencing, stating that recidivism can be controlled with getting to the heart of the issue like substance abuse and mental health problems in an offender. Tipton observed that many sentences are mandated by statutes, like behavioral counseling for domestic violence offenders.
Both candidates favored suggesting that a litigant get legal advice, even if it means postponing a court date. Both candidates pledged to be approachable and courteous. Both said that they would uphold an accused person’s constitutional rights. Regarding the right to counsel (the 8th Amendment) Wilson spoke of her understanding that if a criminal defendant couldn’t afford a lawyer but was not facing jail time, that they are not entitled to a court appointed lawyer. In fact, if such a defendant is facing no jail, but a probation term, which is a restraint on liberty, many legal observers believe a court appointed lawyer is appropriate; either that, or a signed waiver of counsel from the defendant.
The hour-long event was broadcast on Show Low TV 4 and can be viewed on YouTube. Election Day is Nov. 8; the last day to register to vote in Navajo County is Oct. 10.