BISBEE — She went from being a secretary at the University of Arizona to becoming only the second female elected as judge to the Cochise County Superior Court. Judge Laura Cardinal answered a few questions this past week for the Herald/Review.
Herald/Review: How long have you been a judge?
Laura Cardinal: Since January of this year.
HR: How long have you been an attorney?
LC: I’ve been an attorney in Cochise County since 1989.
HR: Are you from Arizona?
LC: I’m from the northern Nevada-northern California area, but I’ve been in Arizona since the mid-’70s.
HR: Why did you become a lawyer?
LC: I was doing labor organizing at the University of Arizona. I worked at the University of Arizona as a secretary. I was organizing clerical workers, so I got involved with labor law (and) employment law. I had been studying journalism and I had an understanding about some constitutional law and it always seemed very logical and useful to me.
Some people said, “You should go to law school,” and I applied and took the LSAT and I got accepted and it seemed like a perfect kind of match up with my skill sets, so that’s what I did. I didn’t know any lawyers but it made sense to pursue that. This was at the University of Arizona. I graduated law school in 1988.
HR: Why did you run for judge?
LC: We had the retirements of very experienced judges who had been on the bench for a good long while. Because it’s rural America, rural Arizona, we’ve had a loss of professional people, including lawyers. we’ve had a dwindling legal community over the years I’ve lived here. So we don’t have a lot of depth. We don’t have a lot of depth on the bench so to speak.
I wasn’t ready to retire. I had a good practice. I thought it would be in the best interest of the legal community, in the best interest of the community, that I make the commitment to run for judge and become elected as judge. I had, at that point, 30 years of general practical experience, a real wide ranging depth of practice. So I could bring that to the court and give some assistance to the court and the community that I didn’t feel like anyone else who was running had the ability to do. That’s why I ran. That is why I ran.
HR: What is it like to be a judge?
LC: It’s a very different relationship with the law as a judge than [the relationship] you have as a lawyer. A lawyer has a different relationship with clients. You have relationships with clients and you have relationships with the law because you’re advocating for a position or for a need. As a judge you’re looking at the same statutes, at the same rules, but you have this different relationship to do something called ‘justice’ and it is this more measured approach.
(As a judge) you don’t acquire the depth of familiarity with the people whose lives are affected by the decisions that you make and that’s difficult for me. I want to know more to make sure that I’m making the right decision. For instance, the this trial that we just completed today, I thought was very well done. It gave me some real insight to who or what I was dealing with and that’s so beneficial when you have to make a decision that’s going to profoundly affect peoples’ lives.
HR: Are you married with children?
LC: I am widowed. My husband died shortly before the primary election in 2018. We were married 27 years. I have extended family who live out of state. I do not have children.
HR: What do you do for fun?
LC: I swim, I hike, I bike, I garden, I cook...you know, I play the piano.
HR: How long is your term as judge?
LC: Four years.
HR: Once your term expires, will you run again?
LC: I will not. And the reason is because the mandatory retirement age for judges in Arizona is age 70. I will be 66 in January. I would only be able to serve one additional year in a second term and that would hardly seem fair to the population that would vote for me. So, I would do my term this term and do as good a job as I can and I will not seek a second term.