Requesting a Change of Judge in an Arizona Criminal Court

The outcome of criminal court proceedings can be life-changing. This is the main reason why all legal experts involved have to follow strict rules and procedures. A simple mistake can have an innocent person sentenced or it could contribute to the imposition of a much harsher sentence than deserved. Defendants often worry whether it’s possible to get a change of judge in Arizona. Requesting a change of judge is a legal right and it happens very often during criminal proceedings.

Reasons for Requesting a Change of Judge

In Arizona, the criminal case judge is appointed early on in the process. Thus, the name of the judge will be known way before proceedings begin, enabling the defendant and their legal representative to take action upon necessity.

A change of judge in Arizona is possible under Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 10.2. According to the rule, each side in a criminal proceeding is entitled to one change of judge. There are a few reasons that don’t allow for a change of judge and these include:

  • Attempts to slow down the legal proceedings
  • Attempts to obtain a severance
  • An interference with reasonable case management practices by the judge
  • A judge removal that is based on race, gender, age or other discriminatory factors
  • An attempt to obtain a more convenient location
  • An attempt to gain an advantage related to a plea bargain

Whenever the name of the judge is announced, it may be a good idea to attend a few court sessions and examine their manner of working. Based on such observations, a defendant will find it easier to determine whether a change of judge should be requested.

There are certain deadlines when it comes to requesting a change of judge. Thus, the sooner you act, the better. Don’t waste time and discuss the possibility with your legal representative as soon as you feel that a judge change may be the best option for you.

Deadlines and Other Conditions

According to Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 10.2, a party has 10 days from the following events in order to request a change of judge:

  • The arraignment (whenever a proper notice of assignment is provided)
  • The Arizona Superior Court clerk’s filing of a mandate that has been issued by an appellate court

Getting a change of judge once court proceedings have started is going to be much more difficult. A few exceptions do apply, however.

requesting a change of judgeA change of the attorney following the beginning of the trial is possible whenever the respective judge has previously acted as an attorney that represented your opponent, the judge is related to one of the parties, a financial interest affecting the judgment of the magistrate can be established and whenever the judge is politically affiliated with one party or the other.

In essence, you will have to challenge the ability of the respective legal professional to examine evidence in an unbiased way and to produce a fair verdict. There may be a few other conditions that will enable such a change but making things happen after the beginning of the trial will be more difficult.

The rules, terms and conditions of requesting such a change are outlined in Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 10.1 Either interest or prejudice will have to be proven to move forward with the request for changing the judge.

Such motions are presented in front of a hearing judge. The issue is decided by a preponderance of evidence and a final order is issued, stating all of the hearing judge’s findings.

Whenever trials have more than one defendant, the motion for judge change filed by one of the defendants will not necessitate such a change, as far as others are concerned.