The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded Bruce E. Staggs, a judge on the Conchise County Justice Court on Friday, August 12, 2022. The case is styled as ‘In the matter of Honorable Bruce E. Staggs with case number #21-350.
The judge was charged with violating Rule 1.2, Rule 2.2, Rule 2.8 (A), and Rule 2.9(C), which state:
A judge 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.
A judge shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.
A judge shall require order and decorum in proceedings before the court.
Except as otherwise provided by law, a judge shall not investigate facts in a matter independently and shall consider only the evidence presented and any facts that may properly be judicially noticed.
The following are as alleged and summarized from the filing.
A Complainant alleged that the justice of the peace was rude and condescending during a civil traffic hearing and treated another defendant better than he treated her.
During the Complainant’s case, Judge Staggs asked various questions of the Complainant that suggested he had taken on the role of a prosecutor, rather than a neutral fact finder. He interjected his own personal experiences and vouched for the training and experience of the law enforcement officers who appeared before him. This again conveyed a bias in favor of law enforcement. Additionally, Judge Staggs questioned the Complainant as to why she had exercised her right to have a trial, essentially finding her responsible before testimony and closing arguments had concluded. Judge Staggs also made statements about the unfairness of officers having to respond to speed-related accidents and witnessing injuries and death, once again conveying a bias in favor of law enforcement. In light of the matter, the Commission found that Judge Staggs’ conduct violated the above-mentioned provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The order reads:
“In ruling against Judge Staggs, he was advised to ” be cautious about comments he makes that give the appearance he is biased in favor of law enforcement, including not vouching for an officer’s training and experience, should not take on the role of an advocate when questioning a defendant, should refrain from comments that give the appearance he has prejudged a case, including questioning a defendant’s choice to exercise their right to a trial/hearing, should maintain order and decorum in his courtroom, and should not comment on facts outside the record.”
The Disposition states that:
“Accordingly, Justice of the Peace Bruce E. Staggs is hereby publicly reprimanded for the conduct described above and pursuant to Commission Rule17 (a).
The Judge’s Courtroom is located at 1415 Melody Lane in Benson and can be reached at 520-586-8100. His bio can be found here.
A copy of the original filing can be found here