Saturday, March 27, 2021
To my knowledge, two jurisdictions - Colorado and Arizona - use a Presiding Disciplinary Judge system that grants significant authority in the disciplinary process to a single person.
Arizona has just announced that a new PDJ has been named.
AZ Central reports on the appointment
A former Maricopa County Superior Court and appeals court judge will preside over attorney discipline, reinstatement and disability cases in Arizona.
Margaret Downie was named Thursday by the Arizona Supreme Court as the new presiding disciplinary judge.
Downie is the second person and first woman to hold the position after it was created in 2010. William J. O'Neil, the first, is set to retire later this year.
She will begin May 17.
"I have been involved in the fields of legal and judicial ethics for more than 35 years and am honored that the Supreme Court has chosen me to serve as Arizona’s next Presiding Disciplinary Judge," Downie said in a statement.
Downie is now executive director of the the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints against justices, judges and justices of the peace. She has served in the role since 2017.
She served in Maricopa County Superior Court for 11 years, including a stint as the civil presiding judge. She was a judge for the Court of Appeals, Division One for nine years.
Robert Brutinel, chief justice for the Arizona Supreme Court, said Downie's experience as a judge and with the Commission on Judicial Conduct makes her "an ideal choice."
"As does her reputation for integrity and her prior work handling bar discipline cases," he said in a statement. "The judicial branch, the public and the bar will be well served by the new Presiding Disciplinary Judge.”
How attorney discipline works
Downie has served as the chief Bar counsel for the State Bar of Arizona. The State Bar is a nonprofit organization operating under the Arizona Supreme Court. It investigates allegations of misconduct among the more than 18,000 active attorneys in the state and provides legal training.
The Bar reviews allegations to determine if there is enough information to dismiss a case or proceed with a recommendation of discipline. The committee can take any number of actions, including dismissing a case, ordering the Bar to investigate further, or imposing a range of discipline.
An attorney can appeal the committee’s decision to the presiding disciplinary judge. The judge heads a three-member panel that adjudicates discipline. The State Bar or the attorney facing discipline can appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Downie formerly worked at the Jennings, Strouss and Salmon law firm. She graduated from the University of Arkansas and earned her law degree from Georgetown University.