In college, I purchased a futon I was allergic to. The company wouldn’t take it back, so I filed a small claims lawsuit. When I walked into the court on the day of the hearing, the defendant (the guy who sold me the futon) was standing behind the desk next to the hearing officer. It was obvious they knew each other! I lost but I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know what to do further. This “injustice” has stayed with me to this very day!

Before the internet…

Around 1990, I became a commercial real estate agent for a few years. I did a lease transaction where a commission wasn’t paid. It wasn’t much, about $1600.00, but it was the principal of the thing. This was not a large enough sum of money for the company to have their lawyers pursue it. At the time, a corporation could give an individual permission to pursue a small claims action on its behalf. I knew this because I went to the law library and researched it!

That was thirty years ago, and the internet didn’t exist yet. Maricopa County had two law libraries. I went to the law library downtown on the weekends and researched how to pursue a small claims action. I soon discovered I really enjoyed doing research, reading up on the law. What I also learned: I really enjoyed doing it myself.

In the end, I won my case before the Honorable Judge Orr! I was ecstatic. I ended up compiling all of my research into a thick book I titled Small Claims Workbook, in case someone wanted to follow in my footsteps. As I write this blog post, I remember my designated broker saying to me as I walked by his office: “Here you go, counselor.” He handed me the check we’d just received for the commission!

That was a proud day for me, and my love affair with the justice courts began!

As a real estate agent, I did a lease transaction with Maricopa County Justice Court Administration. I placed one of their justice courts in a small commercial strip center. It was the first time I’d ever met a JP or constable or learned they were elected officials.

My first campaign

Through this process of working with Justice Court Administration and getting to know some of the administrators, I decided to run for JP in 1992.

I didn’t prevail as JP the first time, so I worked as a facility manager on some small shopping centers for Tom Horne, our future State Attorney General. During this time, I did some construction work on two historic homes for a friend (?) who refused to pay me the final $2,200.

I filed a small claims suit again. The day before the trial, a court clerk called me, and said: “We’re not supposed to accept this, but the defendant just came by and left a cashier’s check here for you.”

I enjoyed running for JP so much in 1992, especially campaigning door-to-door, I decided to run for constable four years later and won! The constable position is a perfect training ground for being a JP; this is where you really learn how the orders of the court get carried out.

After twenty years of being your constable in North Mesa, I understand more fully now how important these lower courts are to our community. I think they are one of the most important parts of government, and NEED to be protected!

— Ed Malles