The Verde Valley criminal-case logjam that has backed up at the doorstep of Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael R. Bluff got some much-needed relief this week.
Monday, Presiding County Judge David Mackey announced the appointment of Chris Kottke to fill the Verde’s much-needed judge pro tem position effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Since the retirement of former Judge Joe Butner nearly a year ago, Judge Bluff assumed almost the entire Verde criminal caseload out of necessity. That continued even after the Honorable John Napper was appointed to the Verde Valley’s Division 2 Court. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Napper had served as the Yavapai County Public Defender from 2014 to 2016. To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest because of his former work with the court, Napper’s criminal caseload has been sparse, a situation that will be relieved over time by attrition as the criminal cases that were associated with his work in the Public Defender’s Office are adjudicated, Deputy Court Administrator Shelly Bacon explained Monday.
That’s why it’s welcome relief that Judge Mackey Monday announced the appointment of Kottke to the bench. He will be able to assume a portion of the staggering criminal calendar that Bluff has admirably managed over the past year.
It’s interesting to note that 30 years ago, there were only three Superior Court judges in all of Yavapai County -- one of whom was Camp Verde’s Richard Anderson -- and all of them were based on Prescott. Today, including pro-tempore positions, we have three judges alone serving the needs of the Verde Valley.
There have always been those in the Verde Valley who will jump at the chance to make a case of how we are the red-headed step-child of the Yavapai County’s government structure, but that certainly is not the case when it comes to the administration of justice.
While there was an era when Verde Valley legal matters required a trip over the mountain, today we have a modern Superior Court complex in the Verde with a thorough complement of local judiciary services beginning with the clerk’s office all the way to two divisions of the Superior Court and one pro-tempore judge.
When one realistically looks at the myriad services Yavapai County provides in the Verde Valley, that red-headed stepchild analogy really does not have much merit.
That’s especially true of our local judiciary. From Judge Mackey to the County Attorney’s Office to the Public Defender’s Office to the Clerk of the Superior Court, the Verde Valley has been well taken care of.
It is much appreciated.