BISBEE — The new year has brought significant changes to the Cochise County Superior Court, including the retirement of longtime judges Wallace Hoggatt and Charles Irwin, the election of a new clerk of the court, and the reassignment of hundreds of pending cases.
Hoggatt and Irwin retired Dec. 28, leaving their divisions vacant until Monday when Laura Cardinal and David Thorn took the Loyalty Oath of Office during an investiture ceremony led by Presiding Judge James Conlogue.
The experienced attorneys were robed during the ceremony and then presented gavels by Conlogue, who then sent them off to their courts: Div. 1 for Cardinal and Div. III for Thorn.
Also taking office during Monday’s ceremony was Amy Hunley, the newly elected clerk of the court, a position created in the Arizona Constitution to maintain all civil, domestic, criminal, juvenile and probate records. Among her other duties, Hunley issues writs and warrants, creates minutes for all court proceedings, maintains court exhibits used as evidence, serves as the county’s jury commissioner, and collects all court-ordered fees, fines, bonds and restitution.
Hunley, who was elected to replace the retiring Mary Ellen Dunlap, previously worked as the indigent defense coordinator responsible for assigning attorneys to represent criminal defendants who can’t afford private legal counsel.
According to court administrator Eric Silverberg, Monday also marked the effective date of the relocation of three of the court’s six divisions and a change to how cases will be assigned amongst the judges at the four courtrooms in Bisbee and the two at the county complex in Sierra Vista.
The presiding judge, with input from Silverberg’s staff, recently issued a 24-point case reassignment order prompted by the fact Thorn is married to Lori Zucco, the chief criminal deputy county attorney. As a result of conflict of interest concerns, Div. III will no longer be assigned criminal cases, and will instead handle the existing family and civil cases assigned to Div. I, as well as most of the county’s pending guardianship, conservator and probate cases.
Thorn will hold court in Bisbee at the Old Administration courthouse, which is located next to the main courthouse. To make room for Thorn, Div. II Judge John Kelliher Jr. moved to the courthouse in Sierra Vista, while Cardinal, who took over the Div. 1 seat which was in Sierra Vista, will now be at the main courthouse in Bisbee.
The moves involved numerous court and county personnel, and most of the work had to be performed over the holidays, Silverberg told the Herald/Review.
“It was a lot of work by a lot of people to get things done,” he said. “The effort by everyone was incredible.”
Additional moves will occur in March when Div. IV Judge Karl Elledge retires.
Judge Pro Tempore Terry Bannon, who is also the county’s presiding juvenile judge, will move from the main Bisbee courthouse to Sierra Vista, and Elledge’s replacement, who will be appointed later this winter by Gov. Doug Ducey, will preside in Bisbee.
Silverberg said the reassignments may need to be tweaked again after Div. IV has a new judge, but only two of the four candidates under consideration by the governor are likely to have short-term conflicts due to their current or former positions.
Div. I – Judge Laura Cardinal, Bisbee Courthouse
Div. II- Judge John Kelliher Jr., Sierra Vista Courthouse
Div. III- Judge David Thorn, Old Admin Courthouse in Bisbee
Div. IV- Judge Karl Elledge, Sierra Vista Courthouse*
Div. V- Presiding Judge James Conlogue, Bisbee Courthouse
Div. VI- Judge Pro Tempore Terry Bannon, Bisbee Courthouse*
* Divisions swap courtrooms in March upon Elledge’s retirement