Pima County Superior Court Judge Carmine Cornelio has received a public censure from the Arizona Supreme Court stemming from his behavior during settlement conferences in two separate cases.
An attorney in a January 2012 settlement conference involving possible exposure to toxic mold complained to the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct that Cornelio made inappropriate comments, causing the 19-year-old plaintiff to cry, using profanity and "mishandling and endangering an expensive magnifying glass" used by the plaintiff, according to commission documents.
The second complaint was filed over Cornelio's conduct in a series of settlement conferences from May 2011 to March 2012 for a Cochise County case "involving the sale of family property."
In those conferences, Cornelio used profanity, yelled at "recalcitrant" parties, told a client her attorney was incompetent, threatened parties if they failed to reach an agreement, directed personal insults and called one party a name, engaged in ex-parte communications and "behaved in a coercive manner," according to documents.
Cornelio "acknowledged his conduct was not always patient, dignified and courteous as required by the Code," documents state.
Settlement conferences are informal, off the record, proceedings in which the judge helps parties settle a dispute without going to trial.
As the presiding judge for Pima County's Civil Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution program, Cornelio oversees between 70 and 80 settlement conferences a year, according to documents.
Cornelio said he met with a representative of the judicial commission to discuss the complaints and they "reached a resolution that is mutually satisfactory."
In addition to the censure, it was agreed Cornelio will be assigned a mentor in at least 25 percent of his settlement conferences for six months. He is allowed to offer suggestions for who his mentor should be.
"I'm working with the conduct commission on finding a mentor with the idea that I've been doing these a long time and been successful at it, there's always something I can learn," he said.
In addition, Cornelio agreed to attend at least one educational course "related to appropriate judicial demeanor," documents state.
Cornelio was previously censured in 2010 for cursing and showing his middle finger to an attorney, who was a personal friend, at a settlement conference. In 2007 he was reprimanded for confronting "a court employee on a public street" and making a "hand gesture in an accusatory manner."
Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at email@example.com or at 573-4224.