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Sat, March 23

Supreme Court scheduled to hear case of judge vs. county

The Arizona Supreme Court was scheduled today to hear a case involving the protracted funding dispute between the Mohave County Superior Court and the county supervisors.

The justices planned to review the case without hearing oral arguments from the attorneys representing Superior Court Presiding Judge Gary Pope and the county, and no lawyers would be present, Supreme Court spokesman John MacDonald said on Monday.

"They will issue the minutes of their conference and the minutes will list the decisions in the particular cases," MacDonald said.

"When they will issue those minutes, I do not know.

They could issue an order.

There could be a wide variety of things they can say in that order."

He said the justices handle about 1,400 cases a year, and agree to review only a small number of them.

"And them some include oral arguments," he said.

"Some do not."

Pope's attorney, Phoenix lawyer Andrew Abraham was not upset that the justices would not hear arguments.

"Both sides submitted all the briefs requested by the Supreme Court," he said.

He said that Justice Frederick Martone listened to a "pretty lengthy oral argument" before ruling on June 14 against the county's request to stay an order by Pope, who has sought additional funding.

Deputy County Attorney Deborah Herbert and the county's outside attorney, Bruce Converse of Phoenix, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

"My understanding is that the court will meet (today) to determine how to resolve this dispute," Superior Court Administrator Rick Lewis said.

"I think everybody is waiting to see how the (high) court is going to progress on this matter."

The county filed the special action on June 7 in the high court to overturn an order issued by Pope on May 10 in which he demanded $310,033 in additional funding for the 1999-2000 fiscal year, which concluded June 30.

Pope initially demanded $867,234 in funding when he issued his first order, on Aug.

11, 1999, but he lowered the amount because the fiscal year expired on June 30.

County officials contended that the supervisors have the final say over budgets - not Pope or other department heads - and see the legal dispute as an issue involving separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

However, they offered beginning last fall to meet with Pope to resolve the dispute without filing an appeal at the Supreme Court.

Negotiations broke down repeatedly.

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