Separation of Powers
One of the issues that comes up occasionally in our courts is the matter of separation of powers.
Often, people don't understand that the courts are independent of the other branches of government-the legislative and executive branches. The court's independence is cornerstone to our state and national constitutions. Without this independence the courts could never be fair and impartial, and freedom as we know it could never exist.
In our counties and cities the legislative branches are our board of supervisors and city councils, respectively. Our executive branchs are our sheriff's office and police department.
Often people come into court thinking that I, as Judge, have police reports and other information regarding their case. The only information the Court has upon hearing a case originally is the complaint, which alleges the charge, and perhaps probable cause information. Probable cause information is basic factual information provided for judicial review to determine if facts exist for a case to continue forward in the court.
Since the Court is impartial, no other information may be reviewed by the judge prior to hearing the case. When hearing the case, the judge may then listen to both sides and make an informed decision based with fairness and impartiality on the testimony and evidence brought before the court.
That is why it is so important that those appearing in court, whether in a civil or criminal case, understand that it is the litigant's (person appearing in court) responsibility to present their case. If the testimony or evidence isn't presented, the Court doesn't hear or see it to use in consideration of the judgment.
The judge cannot be an investigative agent because in doing so, would unfairly advocate for either side. The judge can however, ask questions for clarification and as finder of fact, attempt in the interest of justice to make sure the court can make an informed decision.
One of the best things a litigant coming to court can do is to prepare! Organizing your case and the important issues you desire the court to consider will go a long way towards presenting your case.
Although the Court cannot give legal advice, we welcome your questions regarding court procedure and protocol.
More information may be obtained at the Coconino County Courthouse Law Library, 200 N. San Francisco Street in Flagstaff or at (928) 679-7540.
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