FLORENCE — Confusing Justice Court boundaries in northern Pinal County frequently lead to people being cited into the wrong court and other problems, the Board of Supervisors was told Wednesday.
Shaun Babeu, associate presiding judge of Pioneer Justice Court in San Tan Valley, asked for different lines between his precinct and the Apache Junction precinct. Babeu told the board that although Justice Court boundaries were drawn as recently as four years ago, the lines aren’t working in San Tan Valley.
“We’re the only community in Pinal County that’s separated by two Justice Courts, and it has created issues” for law enforcement and residents, Babeu said. When someone is cited into the wrong court, “the person runs the risk of getting held when they shouldn’t, or getting released when they shouldn’t.”
A defendant may wait 18 months for trial, just to see his case dismissed because he’s in the wrong court.
When the Pioneer Court summons jurors, it often finds 15% to 20% of them aren’t in the court’s jurisdiction. “They’re from Apache Junction. We don’t know that until they come. … They’ve taken the day off work, they come in, and they have to be excused,” Babeu said. San Tan Valley shares the 85140 ZIP code with Apache Junction.
Babeu said the problem was apparent long before now, and he previously asked about redistricting 2½ years ago. He said he was told then it’s expensive to change all the voter registration cards so why not wait for the census.
“I’d hate to continue to go down this road for another two years or whatever it is to make what I think are common sense changes,” the judge told the board.
Babeu said it should not complicate signatures being gathered on candidate petitions for the next election. He said his information is that signatures that were good at the time they were collected remain good.
The board took no action on this matter Wednesday. The discussion arose in the course of an update on the county’s redistricting process. The board is obligated by law to update its supervisor district boundaries but is not required to change Justice Court precincts at this time.
Deputy Pinal County Attorney Allen Quist told the board that given the tight time frames the board is already working under and ambiguities in the law, it might not be feasible to redistrict the Justice Courts at this time.
But Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, told Babeu, “I think this board is willing to work on this with you.”
Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said, “This needs to be cleaned up.” Goodman further noted that when the town of Queen Creek starts its municipal court soon, it should reduce some of Babeu’s caseload.