BENSON — The three Division 5 Superior Court Judge candidates were invited to speak at a candidate forum organized by Pastor Tim Thacker of Broken Arrow Baptist Church in Pearce on Sunday morning.
Candidates Anne Carl, Sandy Russell and Jason Lindstrom were given about 15 minutes to talk about why they want to serve as superior court judges and provided background about themselves. The also responded to questions from the audience.
Carl talked about the five skill sets a judge needs to be effective. Those skill sets include legal confidence, integrity, communication skills, judicial temperament and administrative skills.
She then explained why each skill set is important.
Legal confidence is critical for judges in order to avoid the high cost of the appeal process, as well as time lost in rehearing cases, she said.
“Right now there is a backlog of cases in our courts. The administrative decisions which have temporarily suspended the speedy trial deadlines for criminal cases are not being renewed, so there’s that backlog,” she said.
When addressing the skill set of integrity, she said that fair and unbiased hearings are critical.
Russell spoke of the importance of being treated fairly by the judge and jury and stated that justice is about getting to the truth. In order to get to the truth, there are processes in place and a system of rules that are respected and followed.
She said that criminal cases comprise about 30 percent of what the superior court hears. The other 70 percent falls under civil cases that touch on such issues as divorce, family wills, custody cases, and contract litigation. Russell said it takes experience in both criminal and civil cases to sit as a superior court judge, which she has.
“I started out as a prosecutor, and have been a lawyer for 20 years. I’ve handled almost every case this court hears, and I have a lot of trial experience,” said Russell, who added that she has seen both good and bad judges in her career.
Russell said she wants to represent regular people, as justice is not always easy.
“The entire system is not a level playing field. I want to make sure you have an equal opportunity to be heard,” she said.
When he spoke, Lindstrom touted himself as a home-grown candidate that grew up near the Mexican border.
“I watched as the (border) wall grew from a barbed wire fence to a giant steel structure,” Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom has worked in the legal community for more than 20 years in a number of capacities, and has practiced all over Southern Arizona.
With experience as both a prosecutor and criminal defence attorney, Lindstrom said he has watched judges with years of experience come and go through his career.
“I believe the experience that I’ve had qualifies me to represent you,” he said. “Through the course of my life, I have had experiences that I carry with me that I think will be valuable if you elect me to be a judge in the Superior Court here,” he said.
About 50 people attended the forum. While the church is located in Pearce, people came from different parts of the county to hear the candidates.
Benson resident Steven Walker said he wanted to know more about the three candidates, and felt the forum was a good way to better understand their positions on some issues.
“I thought the forum was really informative and I thought it was great that the three candidates were willing to come and speak to the community and tell us about themselves,” Walker said. “For me, it was interesting to learn that the three had such varied experiences as judges. I thought the forum was helpful, and I plan to research them more before the election in November.”
Lucille Carothers, a Whetstone resident, said she attended the event in order to hear the views and positions of the candidates in person.
“I thought the forum was eye-opening in that it gave me a better idea of how candidates stand when it comes to their approaches to delivering justice,” Carothers said. “I thought that Sandy Russell seemed more experienced than the other two candidates. I believe her past experience will benefit the people of Cochise County if she is elected.”