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The Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County
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Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Commissioner Myra HARRIS
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Specific Comments or Advice for Litigants
Specific Requirements or Preferences
Judge McClennen and Commissioner Harris make up the Lower Court of Appeals within Maricopa County’s Superior Court, which handles civil and criminal appeals from twenty-three (23) Municipal Courts, and twenty-five (25) Justice of the Peace Courts. Additionally, this division handles Special Actions, Review of Administrative Decisions, and Writs of Habeas Corpus. An index of non-precedent setting opinions may be accessed via the Maricopa County Superior Court website. Topics include opinions about blood tests, community caretaker functions, reasonable suspicion, right to counsel, and sufficiency of evidence to reference a few.
After the lower court judgment is entered into the record, the appellant may file a notice of appeal, request trial court records (e.g. transcripts), and file briefs citing legal reasons for over-turning the ruling, which fully analyze how those reasons relate to the facts of the case. Counsel working on appeal must cite to the applicable case law (e.g. State v. Chapple, 135 Ariz. 281 (1983); Eaton v. AHCCCS, 206 Ariz. 430 (Ct. App. 2003), et al.), statutes (e.g. A.R.S. § 12-901, et al.), and rules (e.g. Superior Court Rules of Appellate Procedure—Civil; Superior Court Rules of Appellate Procedure— Criminal, Rules of Procedure in Civil Traffic and Civil Boating Violation Cases). New evidence is not admitted on appeal; an appeal facilitates judicial review of the lower court’s holding. A Lower Court of Appeals Flow Chart further outlining the administrative process may be accessed on the Maricopa County Superior Court’s website.
• Judicial officers are neutral parties, who focus on the facts, not ancillary matters. It is the Court’s responsibility to do justice, and be perceived as doing justice. Litigants must recognize these as distinct roles, not one and the same.
• If a young attorney does not know what to do in a particular instance, he or she is encouraged to ask for help. All attorneys have struggled through their first case: everyone starts the same way. Diligent young attorneys will go to Court, and observe a proceeding similar to the one for which they are to be responsible. Time may also be spent at the Self Help Center, becoming familiar with forms and filings.
• Litigants representing themselves tend to be more compliant when they have a stake in the case, understand the process, and believe the Court is hearing their story. Otherwise, litigants become frustrated in the pursuit of justice for themselves: perhaps expectations are impermissibly grounded in television’s depiction of the judiciary. Please understand the Court is bound by law, but may often consider equities of a case, ensuring the outcome is fair. Fair does not mean equal. It is my goal to hear the story of pro se litigants, and be detailed in my rulings, so as to help them understand the outcome of their case.
Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues
• Before my Lower Court of Appeals assignment, I was both a teacher and a Family Court Commissioner for many years. As a result, I have spent the bulk of my career either conducting legal research, and writing, or teaching the same. I look for— and value— this skill set in the legal professionals I encounter.
• Legal research is inextricably linked to legal writing, which is done for the benefit of your clients, so as to represent their interest(s). The underlying rationale of what the Court is being asked to do must be clearly presented in logical order. If you do not explain what your clients want, and why they are entitled to it, the judicial officer will never fully understand your client’s circumstances.
• When a record is provided to the Lower Court of Appeals, written transcripts are appreciated over audio transcripts. Otherwise, the review process is slowed to the detriment of all involved.
Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments
• All pleadings filed with the Court require the signature of counsel. When counsel signs a pleading, he or she becomes responsible for its content. A technical mistake is not fatal, but telling the Court something is, when it is not, impacts credibility. Counsel may personally suffer the consequences of inaccurate information in accordance with Rule 11 requirements.
Trial Practice and Protocol
• The Court has a dim view of game playing. Counsel will lose credibility if (1) their research is incomplete; (2) gaps are left in analysis; or (3) answers to the Court’s questions are misstated. Judicial officers are not pleased when counsel tries to pull a “fast one.”
• Be careful about being rude to people in Court. It is never a good idea. Learn the difference between being rude, and challenging the law in question. It helps when the Court is asked to allow you the opportunity to support your argument.
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