New Presiding Judge – Maricopa Superior Court

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Judge Norman Davis, the new presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court discusses his vision and plans for the county judiciary.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to review Arizona's employer sanctions law. The chamber of commerce and the ACLU, among others, are challenging a lower court's ruling upholding the law. The business and civil rights groups contend that only Congress can pass immigration legislation. And the Obama administration says it will deploy 524 National Guard troops to Arizona's border with Mexico. The deployment is set for sometime before late August. Federal representatives also pledged $600 million in emergency funding to help address security issues at the border.

On June 7th Norman Davis became the presiding judge of Maricopa County superior court. He replaces judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell who retired May 31st. Here to talk about his new responsibilities and his vision for the court is presiding judge Norman Davis. Nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Norman Davis: A pleasure to be here with you, Ted.

Ted Simons: The state of the court right now, what are you seeing there?

Norman Davis: Ted, I think it's what it's been for sometime. As you may know, our court has a reputation of national excellence. We're an innovative court. We're a large court. We're the fourth largest trial court in the country. What I've seen is what I've known for a long time. It's in excellent shape. We have 95 dedicated judges and 59 dedicated commissioners doing the work of the court every day. I think it's in great shape.

Ted Simons: The ideas for improvement, what do you see and how do you plan to do it?

Norman Davis: Well, I think it's a matter of improvement by degree. We, as you know, we just got through our recent cycle. We won 10 or 11 national awards for various aspects of the court. I think there's always room for improvement. An operation as big as ours, there's always things we can look at. We're looking at a number of areas. One area that I would like to stress is technology. I think with limited budgets, with the reduction in resources we have, technology is one way to fill a gap, make access to justice more fair, more accessible and we can do that in a variety of ways. We want to look at some innovations. We're looking at some improvements in our probate court process. We're getting ready -- at the end of the legislative season is always a busy time to make sure we comply with all the new legislation. We're looking now at all of those changes. Immigration law right now is on the forefront. We're making sure that we're doing all we can to comply and follow the law in that respect and a number of other things.

Ted Simons: You mentioned budget cuts. You also mentioned immigration legislation. It sounds like that legislation might lead to heavier caseloads. Budget cuts doesn't necessarily follow as a good idea there. So how do you work that dynamic?

Norman Davis: Of course none of us know exactly what the impact on the courts will be. Many of the matters that will come to the court are misdemeanors and would be handled by the city and justice courts. So they'll have to take a look at it as well. We'll rearrange personnel and resources the best we can. The County board of supervisors has been good at filling the need where they have the ability to do so. We don't anticipate any problems in that area. We think we'll be able to fill all the needs that are required.

Ted Simons: Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, we mentioned, your predecessor, give us your thoughts on her tenure.

Norman Davis: Barbara I think has done an excellent job of leading the court. She's a woman of tremendous grace, professionalism and worked hard for 21 years to do that. She's a friend of mine and I value that relationship and her friendship.

Ted Simons: We have read and we have heard that her style was pretty strong. Some call it authoritarian but strong and some would argue that's needed in that position, your position. Some would say no, it's time to find a consensus builder and someone who is not quite that temperament. What do you make of all of that?

Norman Davis: I didn't see authoritarian or dictatorial style at all with Judge Mundell. I can only speak for what I would like to see. I view this job as more supporting the bench. That's where the real work of the court goes on. They do the cases each day. I view my role as to support them and do my job and hope I can make their job a little bit easier. I do think it's important to build consensus. One of the things that I did after taking over as we reconvened what we call our McJustice committee, I brought in the County attorney, the sheriff's office, public defender, probation, County management and we started talking about ways we can improve the criminal justice system. That sort of activity I think is needed. We'll continue to pursue those kind of things and hopefully move forward in areas where we can in a collaborative way. Obviously everyone has different roles and different things that they need to do, but where we can work together for the benefit of the taxpayer to reduce the costs and make justice more accessible, I hope we can do that.

Ted Simons: We heard County attorney and sheriff's office in that gathering or the meeting that you had. What are your thoughts about the battles that had been going on? Obviously that's the past and you want to look toward the future, but the public perception is that the court has a fight or has had a fight on its hands for quite awhile. Give us your thoughts on that.

Norman Davis: Well, I haven't seen a lot of that to be honest with you. As you know, the court is a little bit at a disadvantage in some of these things because part of our cannons of ethics require we don't comment on pending cases. and Silence could be taken however you want to take it I suppose. But We view it as maintaining our fairness and the integrity that we have to hear each case on its own merits. We want to preserve that. We think we've done that. I want to move forward to make sure that every litigant from any agency, the County sheriff's office, the County attorney's office, public defender when they come to the court, that they feel justice was done and, in fact, it was done. I'm looking forward to doing that in the future.

Ted Simons: Last question. Why do you want this job?

Norman Davis: I think it's a great job. The people I work with are the best men and women that I've ever known. They're men and women of integrity. They take their job seriously. The merit selection process we have in Arizona really gets the best of the best to serve in those roles. Every day I come to work and I've never had a judge turn me down for an assignment. I've never had a judge say, I don't want to do that. They're anxious and willing to be engaged in court improvements. Within the last two months, we've had one of our judges, Judge Steinle, start a restitution court to help collect more money for victims of crimes. We've had judge McNally in family court ramp up our accountability court to collect more child support. We're currently working to start a new veterans court in the mental health and criminal areas. It's a pleasure to come to work every day when we have those kinds of people to work with.

Ted Simons: So for those who say it's a thankless job because people always have a complaint and they will becoming to you, you say?

Norman Davis: I don't think you come to work for thanks. You come to work to do the work of the court.

Ted Simons: Thanks, judge, for being here.

Norman Davis: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Judge Norman Davis:Maricopa County Superior Court;

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