Officials aim to end specialty courts
By Gary Grado, Tribune
November 11, 2005
The countys prosecutor and a state lawmaker are aiming to abolish courts in Maricopa County that focus on Spanish speakers, American Indians and the homeless, saying they run counter to the concept of equal justice.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas said this week that his office is considering "lawful options" to end its required participation in Maricopa County Superior Courts DUI court for Spanish speakers and American Indians.
Earlier this year, Thomas pulled a staff member from a committee organizing a court for the homeless that Tempe and Phoenix Municipal Courts will begin operating in Feb- ruary.
And Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, chairman of a House Appropriations Committee, said he will use the "big stick" of withholding funds if necessary to end them.
Both elected officials say the trend of creating courts based on race, language and socioeconomic status is unconstitutional, a trip down a slippery slope, and they are troubled by it.
"Are we going to create a Catholic court and maybe we ought to have an all-white court, I mean its crazy," Pearce said Wednesday.
Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, who oversees Maricopa County Superior Court and the countys lower courts, said the special courts are constitutional and Thomas doesnt understand how they operate.
The Spanish-speaking and American Indian DUI courts were established in 2002 before Thomas was elected and are funded by a federal grant. They are rehabilitation programs for convicted felony DUI offenders on probation, said Mundell, who handles the Spanish-speaking court.
"We want to teach people skills so that they maintain