SIERRA VISTA — Interim Sierra Vista Municipal Court Magistrate Gary Ramaeker has declined to take on the role permanently, he said Friday, because of “unresolved issues” in the court services agreement between the city and Cochise County.
Ramaeker, the former judge pro tempore at the Sierra Vista Justice Court, was tapped to be the magistrate in the municipal court after Pat Call, the former justice of the peace and magistrate, refused to sign the consolidated court agreement between Sierra Vista and the county.
In 1990, the two government entities entered into an agreement under which the county would run the city’s municipal and justice courts. The county has similar agreements with other municipalities.
In Sierra Vista, the justice of the peace was also the magistrate. But that ended in October after Call’s refusal to sign the contract. At the time, Call was still justice of the peace, but upon the refusal to sign, he was no longer the magistrate. Ramaeker was chosen as interim magistrate by former Cochise County Superior Court Presiding Judge James Conlogue.
Conlogue suggested a new type of agreement whereby the municipal and justice courts, and the justice of the peace and magistrate, become separate entities.
Sierra Vista officials agreed and additionally, the City Council required that the magistrate also be an attorney. Under the previous agreement, the justice of the peace and the magistrate — one person — did not have to be an attorney.
Newly elected Justice of the Peace Kenneth Curfman, for example, is not an attorney.
But Ramaeker said Friday that there are “unresolved issues” with the agreement between the city and the county and he said he did not feel comfortable taking the job as magistrate until the issues are squared away.
“I just decided not to take it (the job),” Ramaeker said. “I told Judge (Timothy) Dickerson I was sorry, but I couldn’t take the job.”
As a result of Ramaeker’s decision, the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Robert Brutinel, issued an administrative order on Jan. 6, putting Cochise County Superior Court Presiding Judge Dickerson in charge of the day-to-day operations of the municipal court until he chooses a magistrate.
A similar situation occurred last week at the Bisbee Justice Court. Justice of the Peace Janus Poppe — who was also the magistrate — was left solely as justice of the peace. Poppe said Bisbee city officials and the county have not reached an agreement on their consolidated court contract. Dickerson was also placed in charge of that court by Brutinel until a magistrate is chosen.
Ramaeker said he would assume the role of magistrate if the unresolved issues are resolved.