Paul Babeu, Pinal County Sheriff

This election season yielded more than its share of oddities, but this one has some scratching their heads.

Out in Apache Junction, a just-elected justice of the peace is being advised by the Arizona Supreme Court that he will be conflicted out of a large mass of his docket. The reason? His brother is the sheriff of the county in which the new judge sits.

Shaun Babeu was elected in November, but his brother Paul Babeu has been Pinal County Sheriff for awhile now.

As the story says, the court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee found a conflict in the new JP hearing cases from the Sheriff’s Office “because his impartiality may be questioned.” It continues:

“’We conclude that the sheriff, who is elected to enforce criminal and civil traffic violations and whose reelection depends largely upon the public perception of the sheriff’s success in doing so, has more than a (minimal) interest in any case in which the sheriff’s office is involved,’ said the opinion issued Nov. 18. ‘The judge therefore must disqualify himself.’”

The complete story is here.

Shaun Babeu, Apache Junction JP, with his wife Brandy

The new JP suggests this is a tempest in a teapot. He is reported to have said that most defendants will not be troubled by the connection and will waive their right to have another judge hear their case. And a substitute judge won’t be needed too often, he insists, so the cost to the taxpayers won’t be all that bad.

“In the end, it’s very political,” Judge Shaun Babeu concluded. “Some people like that opinion to throw some shots.”

Now, I do not know the Brothers Babeu. It’s entirely possible that their dedication to professionalism is so powerful as to overcome most of our natural tendencies to think the best of our siblings. I mean, if a defendant came before me and said that my sibs John, Jim or Jennifer ran an agency that had trampled his rights, I’d have a tough time giving him a fair shake (OK, maybe John, but that’s only because I know firsthand the power an older brother can wield).

Don’t take my word for it, though. To whom do we turn when we have a question about the steps and missteps brothers may take on the road to dispensing justice?

The Boss, of course.

As Bruce Springsteen’s character Joe Roberts explains in “Highway Patrolman,” a lawman with a brother who strays faces a dilemma. But Roberts knows the path he must take: protect his brother:

I got a brother named Frankie and Frankie ain’t no good

Now ever since we was young kids it’s been the same come down

I get a call over the radio Frankie’s in trouble downtown

Well if it was any other man, I’d put him straight away

But when it’s your brother sometimes you look the other way

 …

 I catch him when he’s strayin’ teach him how to walk that line

Man turns his back on his family he ain’t no friend of mine

Have a listen. And try not to speed in Pinal County.

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