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A judge pro tem was fired Thursday, his first day on the job at a Mesa courthouse, for refusing to hear drug cases.
Arizona Chief Justice Charles Jones fired Marc Victor, a Mesa defense attorney, saying Victor "expressly declared his inability to be impartial in the application of the law and the disposition of cases before him."
But Victor, a marijuana legalization activist, said he recused himself only on drug cases, not all cases.
"I thought it was the honest, up-front thing to do," said Victor, who brought a six-page proposed "minute entry" with him to Maricopa County Superior Court, outlining why he believes drug laws violate the U.S. and Arizona constitutions.
Victor is a member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' legal committee. NORML supports legalization.
Victor's document stirred a hornet's nest when it reached Chief Presiding Criminal Judge Thomas O'Toole and Presiding Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell.
After conferring with Campbell, O'Toole called Victor at the Mesa courthouse and dismissed him, saying "we're not happy with your performance," Victor said.
Pro tem judges are unpaid attorneys who fill in for full-time judges.
"It made me feel there is no room for dissent on the bench," Victor said. "That's what shocked me, how quick they threw me off the bench."
He said the incident shows there is a litmus test that bars judges who oppose drug laws.
J.W. Brown, a Superior Court spokeswoman, said judge pro tems "serve at the pleasure of the court and his services were not needed."
Jones rescinded Victor's appointment as the judge pro tem at Campbell's request, according to a brief court document.
Commissioner Elizabeth Arriola had agreed to handle the court's drug calendar and the seven drug cases on Victor's routine morning calendar.
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