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Pima JP Aboud censured for 'serious misconduct' in lifting quiz answers

Paula Aboud, elected last year as a justice of peace, has been censured by the state for violating judicial ethics during an orientation earlier this year. She had claimed that her taking and hiding the answer key to a quiz taken by new judges was "a prank."

A hearing in the case was held in mid-September, after delays. The ruling that censured Aboud was released Tuesday, after it was adopted by the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Aboud was found to have violated three rules of conduct for judges, the decision by Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop found.

Aboud violated Rules 1.1, 1.2 and 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and the judge recommended she be censured and ordered to complete additional ethics training, as well as pay the state's fees and costs in the case.

"While this misconduct may have only occurred once, it is too offensive to ignore or to resolve informally," the judge wrote. Winthrop said that Aboud was irreverent and "flippant" during the hearing, and testified that she had not read the conduct rules for judges.

Aboud did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision, and has not responded to previous questions about the incident.

Aboud, a former Democratic state legislator, was elected last 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 was accused of "judicial misconduct." The charges could be punished by "censure, suspension, or removal from office."

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Aboud 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 court documents, 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 stated.

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 has not responded to a request for comment about the case.

Winthrop's ruling noted that Aboud had testified that she had "never read the Code," despite being required to adhere to it as a justice of the peace, and said that her conduct is "unacceptable and inconsistent with the standard expected of a judge."

Aboud "testified that she regrets her conduct; however, she failed to concede that her conduct even arose to the level of a Code violation," the judge wrote.

"Her manner and demeanor while testifying conveyed irreverence for the proceedings, including her flippant response that an appropriate sanction would be for her to be 'forced' to teach ethics at (orientation for new judges)."

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Ruling: Aboud censured for judicial ethics violation

Aboud: Charges of judicial ethics violation

Aboud: Response to judicial ethics charges

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