The Arizona Supreme Court has publicly censured a Chandler Municipal Court pro tem judge for misconduct in office. The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct said Monday that Judge Caryl Parker had conducted improper ex parte communications. The Commission claims Parker spoke privately about a dispute with one party without the other party present. The judge also failed to cooperate with the commission which is an independent state agency that investigates complaints against state and local judges. Pro tem judges are usually called into local courts as needed and earn $50 per hour. It is estimated Parker worked as a pro tem judge about once a month on average.

The judicial commission first began its investigation after receiving a complaint last October following her participation in a telephone hearing on Jan. 27, 2011, before issuing an injunction against harassment. About halfway through the hearing, Parker ended the call with the defendant, who was in New Mexico, saying, “That concludes these proceedings.” However, Parker continued to speak with the plaintiff in person for about 10 more minutes, asking several questions “for purposes off the record.”

Then in November and December, the commission sent two letters to Parker asking her to review a recording of the hearing and explain her extended discussion with the plaintiff. The commission also asked Parker to provide a legal reference for the Chandler Municipal Court’s jurisdiction over someone in New Mexico. Although Parker twice wrote back, the commission concluded she failed to address the panel’s specific requests or indicate she had listened to the recording.

The commission sent a third request in January, alerting Parker that her responses showed a failure to cooperate. Parker denied taking additional testimony from the plaintiff, writing that “any comments made by me after (the result had been announced) were of no consequence whatsoever. We were finished with all proceedings and the parties were excused.”

The commission found Parker’s accounts inconsistent with the audio recording of the hearing. Parker said she was “devastated” by the decision, and said she initially had responded to the commission without listening to the recording because she thought her memory of the hearing was sufficient.

Parker has served as a pro tem justice of the peace in Maricopa County since 2003 and as a pro tem judge in the Chandler Municipal Court since 2000. She has a history of discipline with the commission, including a private advisory in 2007, a private warning in 2010 and two public reprimands.

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