SIERRA VISTA — The Sierra Vista Justice Court was left without a magistrate this week after Justice of the Peace Pat Call declined to sign a contract between the city and Cochise County for the operation of a consolidated tribunal.
As part of the city’s intergovernmental agreement with the county for the operation of the city’s municipal court within the Justice Court Precinct 5, Call was both justice of the peace and magistrate.
Call’s refusal to sign the agreement prompted Cochise County Superior Court Judge James Conlogue to scramble to find a replacement for the busy court. Late Thursday afternoon, Conlogue issued an order naming attorney Gary W. Ramaeker as the interim magistrate. The latter will handle cases related to city ordinances and city codes. The order states that Ramaeker is the interim magistrate until the city appoints one.
Call, who did not return a request for comment to the Herald/Review regarding this issue, will remain as Justice of the Peace until his term expires Dec. 31. His seat is up for grabs in the upcoming election on Nov. 3 and two people — Call is not among them — are vying for the position.
After learning of Call’s actions, the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court assigned Conlogue to the “day-to-day” operations of the city’s municipal court.
“It has come to the Court’s attention that the Sierra Vista City Court is without a judge,” wrote Chief Justice Robert Brutinel in an order issued Wednesday. “It is ordered that administrative control and oversight of day-to-day operations of the Sierra Vista City Court shall be assumed by the Honorable James Conlogue, Presiding Judge of the Arizona Superior Court in Cochise County, and Judge Conlogue shall assign judicial officers as needed to conduct the court business.”
Call’s stint as Sierra Vista justice of the peace has been marked by controversy. He was appointed to the position by Cochise County Supervisors Ann English and Peggy Judd in February 2019 while serving as the third county supervisor, a move that many in both government and in the public have criticized as a violation of state statutes and unethical.
Two days after the appointment, Sierra Vista resident David Welch filed a lawsuit contending that the appointment violated Arizona’s open meeting law prior to the vote and that Call violated the state’s conflict of interest law leading up to the vote.
Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Monica Stauffer dismissed the case a few months later, but last week the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed Stauffer’s ruling and sent the case back to Stauffer “for further proceedings.”
Call also did not respond to a request for comment on that ruling.