Golden Valley man seeks to trade legal briefs for judge's robe
GOLDEN VALLEY - Treating people fairly is the foundation of Rick Lambert's personal philosophy, and he wants to take that credo to the next level, justice of the peace, Kingman.
"Becoming justice of the peace seems a natural progression," he said.
Lambert (R) Golden Valley, has been practicing law in Arizona since 2001. He spent a year on the felony trial team in Coconino County and then came to Mohave County to work in the Legal Defender's Office.
Now, he's a prosecuting attorney in the Mohave County Attorney's Office in Kingman, a member of the Child Fatality Review Board, and a drug and gang prosecutor assigned to the Drug Task Force. He also was nominated Arizona Midsemeanor Prosecutor of the Year for 2001.
The four-year seat comes open with the retirement of Judge Larry Imus, who has spent more than 12 years on the bench. Running against Lambert for justice of the peace in the September primary election are Republican Don Martin and Democrat Randolph Wolfson.
"I made the choice to be in public service," Lambert said. "I spent a couple of months in the LD's office and decided I'm more suited to prosecution."
He said his job now is to make sure the innocent are set free and that those who are a danger to the community are taken off the streets to keep people safe.
"The prosecutor has the option of dumping a case if he believes there is a lack of evidence to support a conviction," he said. "It's not like that for defense attorneys. They're obligated to provide the best defense possible, regardless of the evidence or their personal beliefs about a defendant's innocence or guilt. It's very stressful and I admire them for the great job they do."
Lambert grew up in California and knew he wanted to live in a warm climate. Arizona fit that bill. He said he could have gone to work in Phoenix and had a six-figure income, but decided early on that time spent with his wife, Heidi, and raising their four children, now ages 4-17, had to take priority.
"I wanted to give back to my community and I wanted to have a life with my wife and kids," he said.
While a justice of the peace does not have to have a law degree or background in law, Lambert said he believes his courtroom experience will enhance his abilities on the bench.
"I fully support non-lawyers becoming justice of the peace," he said. "I've served in justice courts all over Arizona and I've seen non-lawyers do just as good a job as judges who once were lawyers, and other times I've seen judges who were former lawyers do as poor a job as a non-lawyer. It can go either way. I think it's more important not to look at the 'lawyer' label, but to look at the person and how well they do their job."
Justices of the peace preside over misdemeanor cases in Kingman Justice Court and Cerbat Justice Court and they perform marriages. They also preside over preliminary hearings.
"Criminal cases either can go before a grand jury for an indictment, or they can go before a justice of the peace to establish probable cause," Lambert said.
Lambert literally has taken his campaign to the streets, engaging in door-to-door visits to meet voters and tell them of his need for their votes in the September primary and November general elections. Assisting him in the walking campaign is his 9-year-old son.
"Meeting people face to face is really great," he said. "It gives me a chance to get acquainted with people and it reminds me of what a great area this is."
Lambert said he has no political aspirations beyond justice of the peace at this time.
"I haven't looked beyond justice of the peace," he said. "I believe that is a position where my courtroom experience can make a real difference"
Still, his primary focus remains on his family.
"My main focus beyond my job is spending time with my wife and getting our four children raised, taking care of all of them the best I can," he said.