Pima judge gets rare non-retention recommendation

2014-08-13T22:00:00Z 2014-08-14T09:14:01Z Pima judge gets rare non-retention recommendationBy Patrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

In a rare move, the Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance has voted against retaining a Pima County judge.

The commission voted 22-7 against retaining Judge Catherine M. Woods, determining she does not meet Judicial Performance Review Standards.

She is just the second judge in at least 10 years to get a negative recommendation from the commission, which has evaluated the performance of hundreds of Pima and Maricopa Superior Court and higher court judges during that time. The commission couldn’t immediately provide records going back further.

Woods, who sits on the Juvenile Court bench, is one of 10 Pima County Superior Court judges who will be up for retention on the November general election ballot.

Woods declined to be interviewed about her evaluation. But in an email response, she said, “Every day, I strive to provide fair and efficient justice to all who are involved in the court system. I believe in the work that I am doing and the importance of the work of this court.

“The Commission’s recommendations will provide guidance to me for further improvement in my performance as a judge. I am committed to continuing to serve the public with dedication and integrity,” Woods wrote.

Woods is one of two judges, out of 70 reviewed for the 2014 election cycle who got a negative recommendation. The other was Benjamin Norris, who sits on the family law bench in Maricopa County.

The commission evaluation starts with surveys submitted by litigants, attorneys, court staff and others. It considers factors like legal ability, integrity, communication skills, judicial temperament and administrative performance in making its determinations.

The reviews are conducted twice during a judge’s four-year term, once at midterm and another at the end of the term, before a retention vote takes place.

If a judge receives negative reviews from 25 percent or more of any group of respondents, the commission invites the judge to sit for an interview before the entire commission.

In Arizona, Superior Court judges are appointed by the governor but are subject to a public vote on whether to retain them every four years.

The last Arizona judge the commission determined did not meet the standard was Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Crane McClennon in 2008.

Mike Hellon, the commission chairman, said his votes on Woods were based on the judge’s communication and judicial temperament.

“In these two circumstances, I place a very high value on that everyone who appears in the courtroom should be treated courteously and with respect,” Hellon said. “They did not measure up in that regard.”

Commission decisions on judges are not binding, rather they are intended to inform voters on the performance of judges up for retention.

Hellon said the decisions of the commission are not influenced by politics, adding that the initial reviews are conducted without knowing the judges’ identities.

Woods previously was in private practice with the firm Rusing and Lopez.

Other Pima County judges up for review this year are Jeffrey T. Bergin, Christopher Browning, Javier Chon-Lopez, Charles V. Harrington, Danelle Liwski, James E. Marner, Richard Nichols, Katherine Quigley and K.C. Stanford, all of whom received unanimous approval from the commission.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@tucson.com. On Twitter @pm929.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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