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8:23 AM Thu, Dec. 13th

GOP candidates for Division 1 judge tout experience

An appointed incumbent and her challenger for a Mohave County Superior Court judgeship said they are running for election on their judicial experience.

Charlotte Wells, the former Kingman city attorney, cited the fact that she has been serving on the Division 1 bench in Bullhead City since April 1.

Gov.

Jane Hull appointed Wells on Feb.

13 to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of former Presiding Judge Gary Pope.

"I think the major issue is qualifications, and one of the things that qualifies me is I already am doing the job," Wells, a Republican, said.

"I think my diverse background helps a lot (on the job).

I've litigated these matters before courts all over the state of Arizona" before being appointed judge.

"Plus, I have advised both public and private clients."

Her Republican challenger in the Sept.

10 primary, Chuck Gurtler Jr., said he thinks he is even more qualified.

Gurtler, who presides over juvenile cases in Superior Court three days a month as a judge pro tem and previously did it four days a week, cited seven years of judicial experience.

"I have handled thousands of thousands of cases that (Wells) has not handled," Gurtler, a Bullhead City attorney, said.

"I have handled matters up to the Arizona Supreme Court and to the (federal) Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I have experience with a court's budget."

Gurtler also applied for the superior court vacancy that went to Wells.

Gurtler, 41, and Wells, 55, are the only candidates for county offices running in a contested race in the primary this year, and they face no Democratic challengers in the Nov.

5 general election.

Superior Court judges make $120,750 a year.

Judges Randy Bartlett of Division 2, Steven Conn of Division 3 and James Chavez of Division 4, Kingman Precinct Justice of the Peace Larry Imus and Clerk to the Court Virlynn Tinnell – all Republicans – are running unopposed in both the primary and general election.

Wells, who ran unsuccessfully against Pope four years ago, acknowledged that she enjoys the advantage of incumbency.

"I've seen what this job is, I'm doing the job, and I have confidence that I can continue to do it, and do it well," she said.

She said she presides over civil cases running the gamut from divorce, contract disputes, probate, guardianships and conservatorships.

"In my point of view, every case has a point of interest, and certainly I realize that every case is important to the people who are involved," she said.

"Well, I am learning that I love (the job)," she said.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

I'm enjoying the interaction with court staff, litigants and attorneys."

She described her style as being "fair and respectful" and "very conscientious about applying the law."

Gurtler cites his experience and three other matters that he thinks make him the better candidate: accountability, accessibility and community involvement.

"The court system operates on taxpayer dollars," he said.

"People have to have a judge who can effectively and efficiently handle the heavy caseload."

Gurtler said accessibility means participants in lawsuits should be entitled to their day in court and have a prompt decision from a judge.

"I have a proven track record of taking cases to court as a trial attorney and through my experience with the juvenile court," he said.

Gurtler said community involvement "enhances the reputation of the court and restores public confidence and respect in the judiciary."

He said an unsolved crime four years ago when a bullet damaged the back windshield of his car inspired him to get more active in the community.

The bullet came within 10 inches of striking daughter Marissa, now 14, in the head.

"As a result of that, I started a juvenile education program of going into classrooms and educating students about court proceedings, court personnel and the consequences of becoming a juvenile delinquent," Gurtler said.

"I then take students into the courtroom with these court proceedings."

Gurtler said voters should elect him because of his commitment to the county and its residents and because he has "greater judicial and litigation experience" than Wells.

Wells said, "I just feel that I am the best qualified and certainly well-seasoned."

Wells served as Kingman's city attorney for 10 years before being appointed to the bench.

She previously worked for three and a half years with the civil division of the Mohave County Attorney's Office.

Before joining the county, Wells worked for seven years for the law firm of Robbins and Green in Phoenix.

She graduated from the law school at the University of Arizona.

Gurtler earned a law degree from California Western School of Law, where he met his wife, Jamie Kelley.

Kelley, who practices law with her husband, was born in the former Mohave General Hospital (now Kingman Regional Medical Center) in Kingman.