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Pima County judge faces ethics charges for lifting test answers

Paula Aboud, elected last year as a justice of peace in Pima County, faces charges that she violated judicial ethics during an orientation session for new judges held in January. Aboud has claimed that her taking and hiding the answer key to a quiz taken by new members of the bench was "a prank."

Aboud, a former Democratic state legislator, was elected in November after beating out former county Democratic chairman Jeff Rogers, a defense attorney, in the August primary vote.

In charges filed March 30 by the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct, Aboud is accused of "judicial misconduct." The charges could lead to her "censure, suspension, or removal from office." A hearing has yet to be set on the matter.

Aboud allegedly took a copy of a question and answer key to a non-binding assessment test given to new justices of the peace during a mandatory week-long training course. According to the charges, she took a fuschia-colored quiz document from a table during a study session the night before the test was to be administered.

Aboud was aware that the document contained the questions and answers. A judge mentoring the orientation, who had temporarily left the room but was watching through an open door, saw Aboud take the test and insert it into a stack of her own papers, the charges state.

The mentor, Judge James Sampanes, asked Aboud why she had taken the papers but she remained silent, the charges said. He then told her that he knew she had the document, and removed it from her papers.

"I probably wasn't even going to read it," the charges said Aboud then told the judge.

Aboud later told investigators that she was trying to "play a joke" on Sampanes, whom she had not previously met. According to the charges, Aboud did not tell the judge that she was attempting a joke. According to the court filing, Sampanes did not interpret her conduct as humorous.

In a reply to the charges filed April 27 by an attorney for Aboud, she acknowledged taking the papers, saying that she was "engaging in a prank." She said she had no recollection of telling the judge that she wasn't going to read the document.

Justice of the Peace Charlene Pesquiera, also elected in November, witnessed the Jan. 12 incident while she was attending the orientation. Aboud claimed that Pesquiera, who was also aware of what was printed on the fuschia papers, believed she was playing a joke. Pesquiera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aboud did not immediately reply for comment on the case, which under state law could not be made public until after the deadline for her response to the claim.

"Taking test questions and the answer key at a judicial training, in jest, is not dignified conduct for a judicial officer," the claim said.

Aboud: Charges of judicial ethics violation

Aboud: Response to judicial ethics charges

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