Justice of the peace under scrutiny - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Justice of the peace under scrutiny

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Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2005 9:51 am | Updated: 9:22 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

February 10, 2005

A justice of the peace who alerted the media about a court proceeding could land in front of a disciplinary panel.

West Mesa Justice of the Peace Clayton "Bud" Hamblen said Wednesday that he was just trying to keep the public informed when he called reporters Tuesday to alert them of the initial appearance of a Tempe man arrested on suspicion of stalking an ex-girlfriend.

Hamblen said Judge Gerald Porter, who oversees Maricopa County’s justice of the peace and municipal courts, told him his actions violated the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct.

"He didn’t give me any reasons other than it created an impression of a bias," Hamblen said. "I just don’t understand it."

Porter confirmed he spoke with Hamblen on Tuesday but declined to say what was said.

Porter said, however, that it would always be inappropriate for a judge or justice of the peace to call the media about a pending case, and it wouldn’t be tolerated.

The first canon a judge must adhere to is upholding the "integrity and independence of the judiciary," Porter said. "I don’t know how you can uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary if you’re dialing for the media and trying to generate a firestorm about a defendant who’s going to come before you."

Keith Stott, executive director of the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics, declined comment, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss a matter that could be before the commission.

Porter did not say whether he would file a complaint with the commission.

Mesa police arrested Joseph Hickson, 38, Monday and took him before Hamblen early Tuesday for his initial appearance.

Porter instructed police to take Hickson to a courtroom in downtown Phoenix after learning Hamblen called reporters.

Porter said the courts have asked all chiefs of police in the last year to have defendants taken to downtown Phoenix, partly to control the media attention given some cases.

"The public has a right to know about those cases but the court should not be generating media attention and we’ve been concerned that maybe that’s happened in the past," Porter said.

Hamblen, who has been elected four times, said he has called the media about cases before him numerous times.

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