Thank you to the people of Mesa for electing me to be a Justice of the Peace. It's an honor that I cherish.  I enjoy the challenge of it.  After retiring from the practice of law in 1995, it is great to come back to that profession in a different capacity.

What does a Justice of the Peace do?

Well, Justices of the Peace (also known as a "JP’s") perform civil marriages. They are your local judges over small civil cases ($10,000 and under), as well as misdemeanor criminal cases such as misdemeanor DUIs and traffic violations.  

Justices of the Peace handle most disputes between residential landlords and tenants.  They can issue orders of protection and restraining orders against harassment.  JP's can also approve search warrants.   

JP courts also have a "small claims" division for civil matters under $2,500.00, where cases are more informal and less costly.

As a legislator from January 2009 to January 2013, I enjoyed the privilege of participating in making laws and setting policy.   The primary focus of my service as a state representative was to encourage a re-examination of Arizona's sentencing code in criminal cases.  My hope was to give judges more discretion. 

Although I disagree with some of the provisions of the code, as a judge it is my duty to uphold the law whether I agree with it or not.  Nevertheless, I feel a continuing obligation to speak out against unfair, ill-advised policies that are unnecessarily expensive and overly oppressive to defendants and their families. Some criminals do indeed deserve harsh, severe sentences. Others do not. But sometimes our laws do not give judges the opportunity to fairly distinguish between them.

Judges need discretion.  It is their responsibility to make factual determinations when juries are not involved,  and to make conclusions of law in individual cases.  After hearing testimony from all the witnesses and examining all the evidence, they are in the best position to determine appropriate consequences for the defendant within the range of guidelines provided by the legislature.  However, when justice requires, they should be allowed to deviate from those general guidelines whenever appropriate in individual circumstances. 

The various pages of this website provide you with background information on me personally, my political philosophy, some of my legislative efforts, and some general observations about sentencing and prison reform.  

Please feel free to contact me through the "FEEDBACK" buttons on the right side of each page.

Best regards, 

Cecil Ash

Criminal Justice Report from 2012 Legislative Session

The Second Regular Session of Arizona's 50th Legislature was called into session on January 9, 2012.  I introduced a number of criminal justice reform bills

Just prior to the session, APAAC (Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council) released a report they commissioned, Prisoners in Arizona, with a warning that there would be legislative attempts to reform sentencing. APAAC's guest column in the Arizona Republic on the topic cited their findings that Truth-In-Sentencing* has worked in Arizona because of the reduction in both crime and prison population during the last 10 years.  The report draws the conclusion that therefore, all the right people are behind bars and that Arizona is doing everything right - its sentencing statutes are just fine.

Other experts feel that the methodology used in this report is flawed, and that while the report has some interesting information, it is hardly conclusive that the outcomes can be attributed to Truth-In-Sentencing.  (Hear an interesting debate questioning the validity of the report)  The assertion that 95% of the people in prison are "repeat or violent offenders" is particularly misleading because it lumps together two very different groups of inmates in order to make it appear that our prisons are full of dangerous people.  In truth, many "repeat offenders" are drug addicts who have committed a string of minor offenses to support their drug habits.

Truth-in-Sentencing was instituted in Arizona in 1994.  Crime rates and prison population continued their upward growth (see AZ Republic article Oct 9, 2011), until 2005 when evidence-based practices like diversion were starting to be implemented by the courts and probation departments.  I believe we need to continue implementing evidence-based practices that have been proven to reduce crime and make communities safer. 

In addition, over half of U.S. states have successfully reduced prison populations through sentencing reforms, and many of these states saw a more dramatic drop in crime rates than Arizona.  Thirteen states closed prisons in 2011 due to policy changes implementing evidence-based best practices; however, Arizona's governor just proposed a budget for 2012 which includes $50 million for new prison construction

I think Arizona has much to learn from other states' experiences.  APAAC is right about one thing:  Arizona has been a leader in sentencing - it has the highest proportion of prisoners of any western state, it boasts some of the harshest sentences in the nation, and spends over 11% of its budget on prisons - more than it spends on higher education.    

See a balanced presentation about this topic, in the Arizona State Bar magazine, Incomplete Sentence, by Tim Eigo, January 2012.  
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Truth in Sentencing is a mandatory requirement that anyone who is sentenced to prison must serve a minimum 85% of their sentence regardless of the violent / nonviolent nature of the offense.

further discussion
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