A Pima County justice of the peace has been censured by the Arizona Supreme Court for what some say was an attempt to cheat on a test for new judges and others say was a practical joke gone awry.

During January’s orientation for new limited-jurisdiction judges, recently elected Democrat Paula Aboud swiped an assessment and answer key from her mentor, Phoenix Municipal Court Judge James Sampanes, who witnessed the incident. Aboud, a former state senator, claims her actions were a prank, according to a response to the charges filed in late April. She did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. A fellow justice of the peace who was present testified that she also believed the incident to be a prank.

Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop heard the case in mid-September. He ruled Aboud’s actions violated three rules of the code of judicial conduct, one of which requires judges to “be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity,” according to a release Tuesday from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Another states that judges “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”

Winthrop cited as aggravating factors in his decision that Aboud’s “highly inappropriate” actions “eroded public confidence in the judiciary” and that she “failed to concede that her actions even arose to the level of a code violation.”

“Her manner and demeanor while testifying conveyed irreverence for the proceedings, including her flippant response that an appropriate sanction would be for her to be ‘forced’ to teach ethics’ at (the new judge orientation),” the ruling went on to say.

The commission adopted Winthrop’s findings and recommendation, which includes ordering Aboud to take additional ethics training and cover the costs of the proceedings.

The ruling does not affect her judgeship, according to a commission official.

Contact: mwoodhouse@tucson.com or 573-4235. On Twitter: @murphywoodhouse

Pima County reporter and Road Runner columnist for the Arizona Daily Star