Local judge — president of national association

Williams magistrate, Bill Sutton Jr., said he always knew he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a judge.

He has done just that, and this year he is the president of the National Judges Association (NJA).

“It (working as a judge) was a dream of mine for about 10 years before I became a judge,” Sutton said. “I was a teacher. I became interested because of the association with my dad.”

Sutton’s father, Bill Sutton Sr., was a judge in Williams for nine years. The young Sutton was born and raised in Williams. He said the only time he didn’t live in town was during the time he attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Sutton started his career as a teacher in the Williams Unified School District teaching physical education and fifth grade for a total of nine years.

At the NJA educational conference in Reno, Nev. Sutton was named president after serving as president-elect last year. For the past 9 1/2 years Sutton has served as the justice of the peace for Coconino County District 3, which includes Williams, as well as city magistrate.

Sutton said the NJA is an organization for non-attorney judges.

As president of the NJA, Sutton said there are five areas on his agenda he would like to address to make the organization better — belief in the organization, education, upgrading The Gavel (a NJA quarterly publication), creating a NJA website and adding a paid promoter.

“We need to believe together that we can achieve whatever we set out to achieve,” he said in his president’s message. “There is a genuine power that is generated when a group of people are of one heart and one mind, striving for a common goal.”

A goal that the NJA has had for several years is to increase membership to 500 by the end of 2000. He said this is still an achievable goal by Dec. 31. Sutton also said that keeping NJA members educated is another very important factor.

“During my 10 years of being a judge, year in and year out, the best education I get is at the NJA conferences,” he said. “We have always had fine instructors teaching useful courses and the education we had last month in Reno was second to none.”

He said he has accumulated about 500 hours of Commission On Judicial Education Training certified education since he’s been in office. Once a judge is elected into office, he or she is required to attend three weeks of orientation and 16 hours of additional training per year.

The last three items on Sutton’s list deal with improving membership and promoting the NJA. Sutton said that while the association has many goals, none can be reached without time and money.

“Time must be invested by everyone who is active in the NJA to make this happen,” he said. “We can’t leave the work to a few. We must all shoulder the burden.”

Sutton has also appointed a committee to secure grant monies to be available for education, memberships, publications and scholarships.

In his eight years as a NJA member Sutton has also served as secretary, vice president and state director for the group.

Sutton said by striving for excellence, “the National Judges Association will continue to be a place where good memories are made, and a place were we can all become better judges.”

In the decade Sutton has been the judge in Williams, he has worked on the Judicial Conduct Committee as a limited jurisdiction judge and has served on the Advisory Committee on the rules of Judicial Conduct. He has also served as past president of the Arizona Justice of the Peace Association and is currently the presiding justice of the peace for the county.

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