Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Justice of the Peace Courts 1 and 2 will co-locate at the Graham County Courthouse prior to consolidation due to an employee shortage. The courts will continue to operate separately until consolidation on Jan. 1, 2023.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – Due to an employee shortage, Justice of the Peace District 1 and 2 courts will co-locate at the Graham County Courthouse effective Aug 1. District 2 previously operated out of its location in Pima.
While both courts will utilize the same location at 800 W. Main St., they will remain separate until they consolidate next year.
The Graham County Board of Supervisors previously voted in February to consolidate the courts in Safford where Justice of the Peace District 1 currently resides. The Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Court in Pima will be closed and the facility will be turned back over to the town of Pima, which owns the building.
The courts will officially consolidate into one court on Jan. 1, 2023. JP1 Judge Gary Griffith is retiring, and JP2 Judge Wyatt Palmer is running for the remaining Justice of the Peace position. Lance Lines is also running for Justice of the Peace, with the winner of the Aug. 2 primary taking over the court on Jan. 1, 2023.
According to a previous news release from Graham County Manager Dustin Welker, consolidating the court will save approximately $120,000 per year. The release also stated that the decision was based on cost-savings measures and to maximize county staffing efficiencies. Yet, the release also states the staff of five full-time employees at JP1 and two full-time employees at JP2 will all be retained at the new consolidated court.
In December 2017, the three municipalities of Safford, Thatcher, and Pima agreed to join their various municipal courts into one Gila Valley Consolidated Court located in Safford in a similar cost-savings move.
Welker said the workload for both JP courts has been low enough that the consolidation to one court will still leave the workload “well below the statutory maximum of 1,200 credits.”