For most soon-to-be retirees, there comes a bittersweet afternoon when they walk step out of the office for the last time. But that wasn’t the case for Superior Court Judge Charles Gurtler, who was recalled to settle two final cases after his retirement in June.
How the county will pay for his return to the bench, however, could be settled with a proposal next week under the American Rescue Plan Act.
The $1.9 trillion legislation was signed into law earlier this year, with the objective of aiding communities embattled with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Mohave County received about $21 million in ARPA funding earlier this year, with another equal installment on the way in 2022. That funding has until now been allocated throughout the county for water infrastructure and public service facilities in Mohave County. But now more than $15,000 of that funding could be used to compensate Gurtler, who was called back to the bench for two final cases after his retirement in June.
A retired judge may be called back to serve even after retirement under a 2001 administrative order from the Arizona Supreme Court. Gurtler presided over two “complex” civil cases prior to his departure – one that began last April, and the other that began in March 2016. He was returned to serve as Judge Pro Tempore until those cases are eventually completed, at a compensation rate of $50 per hour.
According to Mohave Superior Court Administrator Kip Anderson, the ARPA funding will come from the Arizona Supreme Court, rather than the county, and its use for the purpose of compensating Gurtler has already been approved by the judicial body.
“We have a large number of criminal and civil cases that have been delayed,” Anderson said. “In order to keep them moving along in a timely manner, it is necessary to have (Gurtler) complete these two cases. They are very involved cases, and it would take another judge several weeks to get up to speed. This would cause further delays in other cases if they were reassigned.”
According to Anderson, one of Gurtler’s two final cases is set for trial in December, and will take about a month to finish.
“With Judge Gurtler handling these two cases, it allows other judges to continue to focus on their own current assignments,” Anderson said.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the proposal at its Nov. 1 meeting in Kingman.