BISBEE — For the second time in two months, one of the municipal courts in Cochise County has been left without a magistrate.
In an administrative order signed Wednesday, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel assigned control of the Bisbee Municipal Court to Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson.
Janus Poppe, who is both justice of the peace and magistrate, is only justice of the peace now. That means he can’t hear any cases related to city code.
In an email Thursday afternoon, Dickerson stated that the issue deals with the consolidated court agreement between the county and the city.
“The consolidated court agreement for the Bisbee Justice and Magistrate Courts expires December 31, 2020, and the parties have not made a new agreement, so the magistrate position is vacant as of January 1,” Dickerson said.
According to Brutinel’s order, Dickerson will take “administrative control and oversight of day-to-day operations of the Bisbee Municipal Court ... and shall assign judicial officers as needed to conduct the court business.”
The same scenario occurred in October when Pat Call, justice of the peace and magistrate of the Sierra Vista Justice Court, refused to sign the consolidated court agreement between Sierra Vista and the county. At the time, Brutinel assigned Cochise County Superior Court Judge James Conlogue to take over the operations of that tribunal after Call could no longer serve as magistrate.
Conlogue, who retired on Thursday after several years on the bench, was the presiding judge in Cochise County at the time. In October, he appointed Gary W. Ramaeker as magistrate. Because the Sierra Vista Justice Court is the busiest in the county, Call had a judge pro tem to help handle the caseload.
Under the consolidated court agreements that the county has with a handful of municipalities in Cochise County, council members in each of those cities choose the magistrate. In Sierra Vista and Bisbee, the justice of the peace also has served as magistrate.
After the issue with Call in October, Sierra Vista changed its consolidated court agreement to require that the magistrate also be an attorney. The justice of the peace does not have to be a lawyer, however. Sierra Vista city officials kept Ramaeker, the magistrate that Conlogue had chosen in October.
It’s not clear why Bisbee city officials and the county have not reached an accord on their consolidated court agreement. In a text message Thursday, City Manager Theresa Coleman said she had no comment. Poppe also said he could not talk about the matter.
Sierra Vista, meanwhile, has a new justice of the peace who takes office on Monday. Kenneth Curfman was elected to the post in November. Call, who was appointed to the position in 2019, was not a candidate in the election.