Saturday, April 07, 2012

Steve Urie running for JP

...and while that may be a good thing for Urie, Urie's wallet (a JP's salary is roughly four times that of a state legislator), and EV may not be good for EV residents, voters, and litigants...

State Rep. Steve Urie (R-Gilbert) has decided to forego a run at another term in the lege in order to pursue the Justice of the Peace office in the Highland Justice Precinct here in Maricopa County.

Highland Precinct takes in Gilbert, part of Mesa,  and part of Queen Creek (I think).

Justice courts, at least in AZ, handle civil suits and small claims cases (<$10K), most traffic tickets, domestic violence and harassment cases, most relevent to this post, eviction cases.  In many of the justice precincts, eviction proceedings are the largest category of cases that go before the court.

On his campaign paperwork, Urie lists his occupation as "real estate broker."

In itself, that's not so unusual.  There are many real estate industrial complex types in the lege.

What is unusual is that his listed employer isn't a traditional real estate brokerage, dedicated only to working for buyers and sellers of real estate.

Nope, the company is called Mesa Verde Property Management, and he doesn't work for it, he owns it.

It's a residential property management company, a legitimate business, and one incorporated in 1988.

A property management company handles most or all aspects of operating a rental property such as an apartment complex or a single-family home owned by an investor.  That includes finding and screening potential tenants, leasing the property, collecting rents, and, if necessary, evicting tenants for non-payment of rent.

Because of that last, a property management company (OK, the lawyers representing them) spend a lot of time in court, particularly justice court.

A quick search of online court records show that Urie's Mesa Verde has been part of more than 200 justice court cases over the last 20 years.  That's not necessarily an inordinate number of cases, not for an active property management company, but it does mean that if Urie wins, he'll have a pre-existing professional relationship with many of the eviction lawyers appearing in court before him.

On top of that, Urie operates a school that offers continuing education courses to other property managers.

What does this mean?

If elected, Urie would face a court docket lightened by the fact that he won't be allowed to hear any cases directly involving his company.

In addition, cases that involve current clients, former clients, attorneys that may have worked for his company, or even property managers that may have paid him for courses at his school may have to be moved to another court if one party in a matter is aware of the pre-existing relationship between the judge and the other party.

Let me be clear, so far as I can see right now, there is nothing untoward about Urie's business or his candidacy (even if he is already known for using his public office to benefit his private clients).  However, the administration of a "Judge Urie" has the potential to make the administration of justice in Maricopa County significantly less efficient.

Urie is looking to move from the legislature, where the ethics rules can be best summed up as "as long as you don't get caught..." to a place where even the appearance of impropriety can result in gumming up the works or even professional sanctions.

He might want to rethink that intended move.


Unknown said...

He should not run and I will make an active effort to support another candidate. The peoples court is a place where the people can be heard and get a fair hearing. Most tenants do not know the Land Lord Tenant Act and their rights. These "pros" all though not lawyers will run over any un-knowledgeble defendant. A Justice of the peace should be the one to make sure the playing field is level and sorry to say Steve Urie is to biased from the word GO. Apeals and having to recuse himself does not do our community any good.

scott huminski said...

The current JP is frighteningly ignorant of the law especially the constitution see the federal court pleadings suing Dodge and the Highland Justice Court