The most tenured member of the bench in Mohave County will be retiring this summer. Superior Court Judge Steve Conn will drop his gavel and hang his robe a final time due to a state law requiring his exit on the eve of his 70th birthday.
“My last day at work will actually be June 30, 2017,” Conn said. That will cap his 31 1/2-year career on the bench.
Judge Conn has long viewed the age-based mandatory retirement requirement for superior court judges, to use the legal vernacular, a bit arbitrary and capricious.
“I don’t know what the logic is behind saying that someone can serve on the United State Supreme Court forever into their 80’s and 90’s and make decisions on very important federal issues, but that you can’t be a superior court judge beyond the age of 70,” Conn said. “I don’t know that having any mandatory requirement of retiring for a judge at a specific age really makes any sense.”
Conn has seen scores and scores of lawyers appear before him over the years. He believes he has helped mentor some of them along the way.
“I like to think that I am imparting my wisdom, that I am educating attorneys, that I am trying to teach maybe young, inexperienced attorneys how they should do things, how plea agreements should be drafted, how they should interact with their clients, how they should handle themselves in court,” Conn said.
Judge Conn, in local legal circles, is known as a workaholic with a sense of humor and a gift for making jurors and others at ease in an unfamiliar setting. Ill-prepared lawyers have sometimes been the target of his sarcasm and ascerbic wit.
“I don’t feel as much hesitation to be abrupt with attorneys because I just think that attorneys, no matter what level of experience they have, have to at least have some idea of what you’re supposed to do in court,” Conn said.
An application and screening process is typically used to determine finalists for filling superior court vacancies. Judge Conn’s successor will ultimately be selected and appointed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.