Judge Riggs, city to part ways at year’s end; veteran jurist McCarville to oversee shift to stand-alone City Court

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Maricopa is planning to hire an interim Presiding Judge next week to oversee City Court’s transition away from sharing a building and a judge with Pinal County Justice Court.

City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to discuss and take action on approving an agreement with veteran jurist Stephen McCarville to become interim Presiding Judge, effective Oct. 5 through Dec. 31, to lead the transition to a separate City Court, and then to appoint McCarville as interim Presiding Judge for calendar year 2023, according to the Council meeting agenda.

Judge Stephen McCarville

Since its incorporation in 2003, Maricopa has handled its Municipal Court proceedings in a shared facility within Pinal Justice Court.

Early this month, City Council approved moving out of the shared facility and building its own courthouse to accommodate the needs of the growing city. While the new courthouse is being built directly east of City Hall and north of the current police building, space is being altered in City Council chambers for a temporary courthouse.

“We are growing up,” Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown said. “We’re maturing as a city and that means we take over new things and we have new processes evolving as a community.”

She added that the courthouse will be built without incurring debt or raising taxes. The permanent facility will take 12 to 15 months to construct.

City Court Magistrate Lyle Riggs will remain with the city through the end of this calendar year, when his contract expires.

Riggs alluded to his impending departure during a brief statement this month at a gathering of supporters for U.S. House of Representatives candidate Eli Crane. Riggs has worn two hats – he also is a Pinal County Justice of the Peace – for years.

“We always knew this partnership would come to an end because of the growth of the city,” Riggs said. “The city has determined that we’ve reached that point. So, my commitment as City Magistrate is to see that that transition is smooth, cost effective and the things we have put in place to help save the city money will stay in place.

“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.”

The City Council agenda states that Maricopa “desires to hire McCarville to lead the transition to a separate City Court” and that McCarville agrees to lead the transition “and, thereafter, serve in the position of Interim Presiding Judge.”

McCarville, a Casa Grande resident, would be classified as a regular part-time employee of the city and be paid $82.50 an hour to provide interim Presiding Judge services. If those services necessitate more time than is allowed of a part-time employee, the city and McCarville agree to negotiate an amended agreement.

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 University School of Law in 1987.

He is no stranger to Maricopa City Court.

In 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court tasked McCarville, then Pinal County Superior Court presiding judge, with taking over daily operations of Maricopa City Court after an audit revealed the city court “failed to make regular daily deposits.”, under former Judge Sully. According to an administrative order from the state’s highest court, the audit led to the “discovery of cash and checks in unsecured areas within the courthouse.”

In addition, the state treasurer’s office did not receive any money from Municipal Court for nine months in 2013 and one month in 2012.

“Both courts also delayed disbursing bond and restitution payments and processing mail-in and online payments,” the order stated. McCarville cleaned up the mess.

Meanwhile, Riggs, a fourth-generation native Arizonan, plans to continue to wear his other judicial hat, as Justice of the Peace for the Pinal County Justice Court. He is on the November ballot for another term.

Judge Lyle Riggs

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. That’s why I hold two titles, City Magistrate appointed by the council and elected Justice of the Peace.

“By keeping the two courts together we saved at least $250,000 a year. That’s significant. Multiply that by eight years and that’s $2 million.”

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Related stories:

City Council approves building a stand-alone Municipal Court building – InMaricopa

Riggs appointed Maricopa’s interim city magistrate – InMaricopa

Riggs: A moment worth celebrating in Maricopa court – InMaricopa