An inevitable growth step was taken by the city Tuesday when Maricopa Municipal Court began operating in City Hall in temporary quarters, separate from Pinal Justice Court after 20 years, while a new courts building is built.
Maricopa Municipal Court, with interim Presiding Judge Stephen McCarville, handles misdemeanors, civil traffic, protective orders, driving under the influence, city ordinance violations and all other citations issued by Maricopa Police Department.
The temporary court quarters were built into City Council chambers, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza, after the council in September approved building a stand-alone courthouse, taking the city’s cases out of the Pinal County Pinal Justice Court building at 19955 N. Wilson Ave.
It cost about $15,000 to retrofit the City Hall side entrance to create a separate court entrance, lobby, client/attorney meeting rooms and security at the entrance, city officials said.
Maricopa hired McCarville to lead the transition to the separate City Court. He now serves as Interim Presiding Judge for this calendar year.
McCarville, a Casa Grande resident, is classified as a regular part-time employee of the city and paid $82.50 an hour.
McCarville was judge of Pinal County Superior Court Division 5 for more than 20 years, elected to his first full term in 2001. In 2016, he was retained with 78 percent approval.
He retired as presiding Superior Court judge on May 3, 2021.
He received an undergraduate degree from Creighton University and a J.D. from Creighton School of Law in 1987.
Since its incorporation in 2003, Maricopa had handled its Municipal Court proceedings in the shared facility and even shared a judge, Lyle Riggs, who is no longer with the city but continues with the county.
“We’re maturing as a city and that means we take over new things and we have new processes evolving as a community,” Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown said.
She added that Maricopa was the only city in Pinal County that did not have a stand-alone Municipal Court.
The new courthouse will be directly east of City Hall and north of the current police building. The permanent facility will take 12-15 months to build.
There is about $2.7 million budgeted for this fiscal year to cover preliminary costs, such as design and construction of infrastructure, site improvements and building foundation, according to a city spokesman. The remainder of the project, including the construction of the building, furniture, fixtures, technology, audio/visual equipment, cameras, access control, security equipment etc., is recommended to be funded out of the fiscal year 2024 budget.
“I want to make it very clear that will be paid by new development, not existing taxpayers,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “It will be 100 percent based on new development coming here. With those growth needs, they should be paid by the people causing the growth and not the people who are already here.”
The new court building will be designed with expansion in mind, as with other city facilities. Plumbing, electrical and other utility stub-outs will make expansion easier when the time comes.
Municipal Court is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, Pinal Justice Court, with Riggs presiding, continues to operate from the county Justice Court building, handling county matters, including evictions, small claims, civil violations, misdemeanors, civil traffic, protective orders and citations issued by Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies.
“We always knew this partnership would come to an end because of the growth of the city,” said Riggs, whose contract with Maricopa expired Jan. 1. “The city has determined that we’ve reached that point.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to serve as City Magistrate. I’m grateful for that opportunity. I respect the wisdom of the Council and the decision that they’ve made.”
Riggs, a fourth-generation native Arizonan, was re-elected in November as Justice of the Peace for the Pinal County Justice Court.
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Arizona in 1991 with a degree in Agricultural Economics, Riggs graduated with honors from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I’ve worked really hard to save the city and the county a lot of money,” Riggs said of holding both positions.
He cited among his accomplishments transitioning to video arraignments and pretrial conferences, saving Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies time and costs transporting defendants from jail to court and back.
“We’re one of the few courts in the county still doing everything by video,” Riggs said. “That’s a cost savings to the sheriff and a cost savings to the court. It saves fuel costs with gas prices being what they are. We’ve had strong partnerships.”
Defendants are urged to check their citations to ensure they appear at the correct court.
More information on Maricopa Municipal Court: 520-494-2300.
More information on Pinal County Justice Court: 520-866-3999.