Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- The
Arizona Supreme Court has suspended Coconino County Superior
Court Judge Michael J. Flournoy for 18 months.
In a unanimous ruling Thursday the high court rejected
various claims by Flournoy that there was not enough evidence
to prove he was guilty of misconduct. The justices also said
the penalty fits the offenses, particularly as there are six
prior instances of discipline on his record.
But the court did give him a break in two respects.
First, the justices agreed to let him keep the salary he
collected during the last six months while he was suspended
pending their ruling. He will not be paid, however, from today
through Dec. 24, 2000.
Second, they ruled that he can resume his duties
automatically when his suspension ends. The Commission on
Judicial Conduct, which had recommended the suspension, said
Flournoy should not be allowed back on the bench until he
completes counseling and education and shows he would comply
with the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In approving the 18-month suspension, the high court
rejected a minority report which concluded he should be
stripped of his robes.
"I have not read opinion as yet. It is discouraging to hear
the Supreme Court decision," Flournoy said. "I am deeply
appreciative of all the attorneys who have always complimented
me on my work as superior court judge and I certainly have
greatly appreciated their strong support throughout this. I
would like to thank them very much."
Flournoy, in seeking to escape or reduce his punishment,
based much of his case on his contention that there was not
"clear and convincing evidence" he tampered with a transcript,
the most serious charge against him.
Kathryn Anderson, who was his official court reporter from
the time he took the bench until 1998, testified before the
commission that the judge told her not to transcribe the full
text of some comments he made while a prospective juror was
being questioned by attorneys in the judge's chambers.
The issue arose because that would-be juror also was a
defendant in a criminal case the judge had handled. His
attorney was trying to have the case removed from Flournoy's
court, alleging bias by the judge.
Flournoy admitted telling Anderson not to transcribe his
comments where he said he was in fear of the person. He
insisted, though, the comments were made after the questioning
had stopped and were "off the record" and not germane.
Justice Frederick Martone, writing for the unanimous court,
said the record does not support that.
He pointed out that Flournoy, in defending himself at the
commission hearing, said he did not have any unusual fear of
"Yet, he had admitted earlier that he moved into a
windowless courtroom at night to avoid the threat of being
shot through his office window," Martone noted.
As to the conversation being off the record, Martone said
the fact remains that the conversation was, in fact, recorded.
"Once recorded, and relevant to another legal proceeding,
there was no justification for withholding it," the judge
The justices also turned aside several technical challenges
to the way the commission conducted its investigation.
The court also upheld two other charges against Flournoy.
One said he had "repeated outbursts of temper," shouting at
attorneys and litigants and belittling attorneys in the
presence of their clients. Another stems from a shouting match
with Julie Carlson, clerk of superior court, where Flournoy
threatened to have the sheriff throw her in jail.
Thursday's ruling should not affect Flournoy's effort to
seek early retirement -- assuming he completes his
The judge filed a request for disability retirement on May
20, two days after the Commission on Judicial Conduct first
recommended the 18-month suspension.
A copy of the request, obtained by Capitol Media Services
under the state's Public Records Law, redacted Flournoy's
reason for seeking disability. But a political ally of the
judge, who asked not to be identified, said Flournoy is losing
A disability retirement would allow Flournoy to retire now
with a pension of more than $45,000 a year. Leaving the bench
now, without a finding of disability, would cut that figure by
more than a third.
Mike Ong, deputy administrator of the Elected Officials
Retirement Plan, said Thursday his agency has not processed
Flournoy's request because the judge has yet to undergo the
necessary medical evaluation.