Regarding the recent article dealing with the judicial reprimands issued to Keith Barth, former East Santa Cruz County Justice of the Peace (“Barth reprimanded for promoting sheriff candidacy while still a judge”), I have heard rumblings from a few east county residents that the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct’s discipline against Barth represented much ado about nothing, and was a pure political witch hunt. I beg to differ.
When judges appear to be writing their own rules, the state judiciary says they must be held to answer and they are expected to cooperate truthfully and fully with any investigation into their possible infractions of the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct. This is where the former justice of the peace really appears to have stubbed his toe.
Barth's political activity while still a judge, I suppose, might have been viewed as him simply attempting to test the waters for a run for Santa Cruz County sheriff in 2020. And just maybe (although doubtfully), the commission could have seen it that way. However, things really became murky when he quite evidently tried to bluff the investigating commission by withholding material information that was being sought – not the sign of a forthright jurist in my opinion.
In looking at the reprimand in its entirety, I do believe that had Barth bothered to review the Code of Judicial Conduct (really a periodic mandatory activity for justices of the peace), he would have saved himself a fair amount of embarrassment, criticism and potential loss of trust.
Former justice of the peace for Santa Cruz County Precinct 2