Volunteer Paradise Valley judge strives for fairness, quality in local legal system

The Town of Paradise Valley has the distinction of having an all-volunteer bench serving its municipal court, and the quality of that bench is second to none. The ranks of the court’s judges include some of the most experience, distinguished and honored lawyers in Arizona.

Jack Cunningham

Since September 2008, Jack Cunningham has been serving Paradise Valley as a volunteer Associate Judge at the Paradise Valley Municipal Court.

Through the years, he’s heard many arguments against photo radar tickets issued in the jurisdiction, and has dealt with numerous orders of protection, and injunctions against harassment, among many other matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the court.

Through every proceeding, Judge Cunningham strives to determine what is reasonable and equitable, giving consideration to the law, the evidence, and the impact that his decision will have on people’s lives when ruling. His fair approach has defined him among those who know him at the courts.

“I’ve known Jack for more than 30 years, and have had the privilege of serving with him for the length of his judicial term on the Paradise Valley Municipal Court,” said Presiding Judge Ty Taber.

“I find him to be fair-minded, level-headed and a brilliant legal mind, which is why I recommended him to the bench initially, and continue to do so for re-appointments. His service to our community is greatly appreciated.”

An active trial attorney with 40 years in practice at the law firm Jennings, Haug & Cunningham, Mr. Cunningham is obviously no stranger to the courtroom. He noted that “Although I practice law every day, it’s rare that I encounter a conflict in my law practice similar to what I hear in my courtroom.”

“The majority of cases brought before me are traffic related, and my legal practice is focused in personal injury, professional malpractice, insurance and commercial litigation. There has only been one case in which I had to, recuse myself because one of my clients appeared before me on a traffic citation, unrelated to the matter in which I was representing him,” he said.

His appreciation of the judicial system and sense of obligation to serve the community drew him to the Paradise Valley courts as a way he could give back and do his part to ensure a fair and equitable system was administered in the community where he lives.

“I too have received several photo radar tickets over the years,” he admits,

“and, I recognize that almost everyone is prone to an occasional error of judgment or action when operating a vehicle. However, as opposed to avoiding acknowledgement of the citation or coming in only after a license suspension notice is received, I would hope that people receiving notice of citations would respond as I have, timely and take responsibility if the citation is warranted. Request your day in court if you believe you were wrongly cited, and consider taking advantage of traffic safety school, an option that is available to many. It just seems like the responsible thing to do.  No one likes to get a traffic citation, most particularly a photo radar citation. But it cannot be ignored that Paradise Valley is among the safest jurisdictions anywhere in which to travel the streets and roads.”

Paradise Valley Municipal Court was established in 1964 and continues to serve the community with its bench of eight volunteer judges and two volunteer hearing officers. Hon. Ty Taber has served since 1991 and was named to presiding judge in 2009.

The court is a limited jurisdiction court that handles misdemeanor crimes, petty offenses, civil traffic offenses and city code violations committed in Paradise Valley.

In addition, the court issues orders of protection and injunctions prohibiting harassment for victims who seek protection. Municipal Court Judges are appointed by the Mayor and Council at the recommendation of the Presiding Judge, and hearing officers are appointed by the Presiding Judge.

Recently, Judge Jack Cunningham and Presiding Judge Ty Taber, were recognized as Best Lawyers in America, a highly-respected peer-ranking of lawyers in Arizona and across the nation.

Editor’s note: Ms. Johnson is a public relations professional who represents the Phoenix-based Jennings, Haug & Cunningham law firm.

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