COCHISE COUNTY — Four people are vying for a seat on the judicial bench in Cochise County Superior Court's Division Five, with seasoned jurist James Conlogue retiring at the end of the year.

But depending on how campaigning goes, the general election on Nov. 3 could offer voters either two or three choices on the ballot.

According to Cochise County Elections Supervisor Lisa Marra, all judicial races are partisan in the primary election. That means the two Republicans running for Conlogue's seat will square off on Aug. 4., and only one will advance to the general election in November. Meanwhile, the write-in candidate, a Democrat, will have to garner 453 valid write-in votes to get on the ballot in November.

There is also one candidate who has no party affiliation who will automatically be on the ballot in November. The winner between the two Republican candidates will be on the ballot, as well. If the write-in candidate collects all the necessary votes, then there would be three people running, Marra said. But voters will not be choosing their candidates along party lines in November for this particular race, Marra said, because it becomes non-partisan.

Name: Roger H. Contreras

Age: 54

Occupation: Attorney – Law Office of Roger H. Contreras

Party Affiliation: Life-long Republican.

Family: Engaged, father of one 10-year-old son.

Tell us a little about yourself, 30 words or less:

I have 30 years of legal experience (admitted in Arizona and California). 19 years experience as a judge pro tempore for Pima County Superior Court – the only candidate with any Superior Court judicial experience.

Three additional questions pertaining to the office in 200 words or less:

1. If elected, what would your style of judging be?

Consistent, fair justice, regardless of the consumer. Unwavering application of the law and rules.

2. What issues would you work on changing, if any?

Greater focus on the cost of justice to the consumer and the taxpayers. More frequent employment of alternative dispute resolution opportunities. Use of technological opportunities to mitigate geographic challenges.

3. What would you want to add in that position that you believe is missing?

Increased community service for offenders. If one invests in their community, their ownership interest will more likely prevent recidivist victimization of their neighbors or damage to that community.

Name: Jason Lindstrom

Age: 47

Occupation: Prosecutor at the Cochise County Attorney's Office and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Arizona

Party Affiliation: Republican

Family: Married for nearly 25 years to Leta (Hart/Pederson), a Cochise County native, and two children, Aleah and Joshua, both Buena High School Graduates.

Tell us a little about yourself, 30 words or less:

I grew up in rural Cochise County, on the Mexican border. I've worked in the legal community for 20+ years in various capacities and practiced all over Southern Arizona.

Three additional questions pertaining to the office in 200 words or less:

1. If elected, what would your style of judging be?

As a Superior Court Judge, I will ensure my courtroom operates in a fair and unbiased manner. A judge is not there to create new rules or change rules. A judge is there to administer due process of law and serve the interests of justice. Our founders were wise as to how they divided power among the three branches of government. I will ensure my role in the judiciary upholds and supports our Constitution.

2. What issues would you work on changing?

Government is always slow to adopt new technology. Technology can assist us all to be more effective and efficient in how we calendar events, move paper from one department to another, transport inmates to and from courtrooms, and interact with parties in other jurisdictions. I will be open to change, and be mindful of everyone's time. Justice should not be slow. There is always room for improvement.

3. What would you want to add that you believe is missing in that position?

I respect those that now serve and that served before me. I have learned a lot from their many years of experience. Having practiced in many different courts all over Arizona, I have been exposed to many different personalities and judicial styles. I believe this exposure and my diverse background and history will bring a well rounded perspective to the court.

Name: Anne Carl, write-in candidate  

Age: 53

Occupation: Managing Attorney, Law Office of Anne Carl PLC

Party Affiliation: Democrat (Write-In Candidate). 

Family: I am married to Al Anderson, a grandmother to three lovely young people, an aunt to 14 more, and now a “great” aunt, too. Al and I were foster parents some time ago, but these days dogs and our joint participation in civic efforts enliven our family life.

Tell us a little about yourself, 30 words or less:

I’ve dedicated my life to public service, improving our democratic institutions, fighting injustice, and solving problems. JD (law) w/honor and MA (education) degrees from the University of Arizona. Visit www.AnneCarlForJudge.com.

Three additional questions pertaining to the office in 200 words or less:

1. If elected, what would your style of judging be?

Though I appreciate the way this question is asked, I will qualify my answer first, because personal “style” has little-to-nothing to do with being a judge, in my opinion. Black robes, for example, are not meant to be stylish. They are not about the person. They cover up the individuality of who is wearing them, accentuating our solemn institution of justice instead.

Communities need freedom, peace and order to function, which requires a trusted mechanism for fairly and civilly resolving disputes and determining weighty matters of guilt and innocence. Consequently, our judges must work hard and come prepared to scrupulously apply the law and maintain our rule of law, the idea that no one is above the law, including judges. They must safeguard our constitutional rights, show respect and compassion, and of course exercise good judgment and good ethics, as no one trusts a cheat.

Humility is also important, because judges are human beings, after all. Even competent, experienced ones make mistakes, so over-confidence ought not define a judge’s “style” and would not define mine.

If elected, my “style” will I hope be forgettable: plainly and consistently defined by hard work, long hours, by-the-book faithfulness, fairness, firmness, respect, compassion and humility.

2. What issues would you work on changing?

I’ve been urging voters as well as my colleagues vying for this position to join me in supporting the Second Chances Rehabilitation and Public Safety Act Initiative this November. Though I support incarceration, including stiff sentences in appropriate cases, and will as judge, and I will also of course abide by all laws in effect during my time on the bench; we should restore judicial discretion when sentencing for non-dangerous offenses.

Current mandatory-minimum sentencing laws for low-level felonies counterproductively tie judges’ hands. Judges cannot consider rehabilitation options, offender circumstances and what society needs, or even what victims need. They must instead robotically and often mercilessly impose tough sentences, regardless of their shortcomings.

The past 20 years, AZ’s prison population has skyrocketed almost 300%. Now costing ~$1.2B/year despite drops in violent crime, that’s more than we spend on our colleges and universities. Moreover, we don’t sufficiently help victims and first responders affected by crime, or incentivize prisoners to behave and participate in rehabilitative programs. If passed, this act would safely reduce the prison population, reduce recidivism, utilize Medical Marijuana funding to expand rehabilitative programs, and save taxpayer money. Our rural, often underfunded system of justice needs this act. We all do.

3. What would you want to add that you believe is missing in that position?

Anyone who’s attended court from afar knows that it is burdensome, even assuming that one has reliable transportation. Driving across our county, the size of Connecticut, can take hours. More time is lost awaiting one’s case to be called. Finally, what often end-up being short proceedings are followed by long drives home, with potentially devastating consequences after having missed work, upset childcare routines, etc.

Our courts have long offered audio-visual appearance options for those in jail, occasional telephonic appearance options to others, and the promise of expanded remote appearance options as Superior Court Zoom capabilities develop. Audio-recordings of some proceedings are now publicly available online, too.

But considering ongoing Covid-19 risks, traveling difficulties, and that many victims and defendants with traveling difficulties are not technologically able to Zoom-in from home, more is needed. Therefore, I suggest that our Superior Court develops –perhaps as a pilot program initially– regularly sterilized remote appearance kiosks in each JP Court. Defendants ordered to report to probation could also use these. They could be equipped with breath-alcohol readers, and fingerprint scanners to certify defendant identities. Such kiosks would shrink County distances, increasing access to justice, while saving time, effort (including probation officers’), and taxpayer money.

Name: Sandra Russell

Age: 47

Occupation: Attorney

Party Affiliation: Non-partisan

Family: Chris Russell (spouse); Valyn, daughter, age 9; Madeline, daughter, died, at age 7 (would be age 29); Jordan, daughter, age 29; Alysha, daughter, age 33; Meier, son, age 27; three grandchildren Zek, Lilly, and Adley.

Tell us a little about yourself, 30 words or less:

I am a wife, parent, grandparent, and former small business owner. As a lawyer, I have been fighting for justice for people for nearly 20 years. I am dedicated to protecting the Constitutional rights of people.

Three additional questions pertaining to the office in 200 words or less:

1. If elected, what would your style of judging be? 

I believe it’s important to be non-biased and keep politics out of the court room. I would be a judge who allows the parties and attorneys to present their cases without interference except as prompted by legal objections and motions of the parties, always with the understanding that, in most cases, the parties have a constitutional right to a jury trial. I am interested in allowing the process to work to seek the truth and to do justice. I will come to court prepared for each case and possess the legal knowledge necessary to make rulings in accordance with the law. I will be kind, considerate and compassionate to all parties in the courtroom with the understanding that I am there to serve them. I will uphold the US Constitution, the Arizona Constitution and the laws of the great State of Arizona.

2. What issues would you work on changing?

I would work on increasing the mental health resources available to criminal defendants. Too many criminal defendants are repeat offenders simply because they cannot afford treatment; I will work with court administration and local officials to enhance people’s access to justice by creating a job for a liaison to help people who cannot afford lawyers to assist them with filing documents in their cases, especially family law cases; I will increase transparency of the courts by making the courtroom more accessible to the public and the parties. A pandemic should not be used to prevent the public from attending court; I would like to create a Job Court in cooperation with local businesses to help felons who are re-entering the community find jobs and become successful in their re-entry into our community.

3. What would you want to add that you believe is missing in that position? 

With the loss of three of our long time Superior Court Judges, and soon to be four, our judiciary will be lacking in judges with complex civil litigation experience. Given that roughly 60% of the cases in Superior Court are civil, this is a serious imbalance that can only be corrected by putting a Judge on the bench with complex civil litigation experience. I am the only candidate with both complex civil litigation experience and criminal experience. I am the only candidate with a well-rounded legal background.

This is important given that the Superior Court handles so many different types of cases. There is very little the Superior Court handles that I have not done as a lawyer and I can begin serving the public on day one of the job, without the steep learning curve that my opponents will face.

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