Matthew Newman put on his robe as the 4th presiding judge at the La Paz County Superior Court in an investiture ceremony held Monday in Parker.
Judge Matthew Newman takes the oath of office, read by District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor. Photos by Melissa Wright Photography.
Newman has lived and worked in the Parker area for 26 years. His wife Sheri, a former clerk of the same court, spoke proudly at the ceremony about his journey to that moment.
“Did he tell you he was a florist, a chemist, a burger flipper, a grape swamper and a farmer? Still around Matt long enough and you’ll hear the stories, often more than once,” she told the crowded gallery. “During law school, Matt was a farmer – asparagus and tomatoes – and drove a truck in the tree transplanting business. He would work all day, take a field shower with a garden hose (no time to go home) then attend classes. Then back to the tomato field for harvesting. There was little time to study, but for catching an hour or two when possible. He sat on a milk crate in the back of a pick-up, law books on the tool box and flashlight in hand. Even with those challenges, he achieved academic excellence.”
Newman went on to graduate from the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. He went to work in private practice, and drafting and analyzing pieces of legislation for California State Senator Bill Lockyer. He served as Chief Deputy Public Defender for the State of California, which focused its resources on post-conviction appellate representation in death penalty cases.
Moving to Parker in 1991, Newman set up a law office near Parker Dam, maintaining a general practice, including civil, probate, domestic relations and criminal law. He has represented seven Arizona death row inmates across the state of Arizona after being appointed as their counsel by the Arizona Supreme Court.
In his practice, Newman has often argued cases in front of his predecessor, Samuel Vederman, whose last day as presiding judge was Friday. Vederman said Matt had been a great mentor and friend to him over the years, and joked that his favorite part of the ceremony was to hand over the calendar of cases to Newman.
Vederman will continue to live in Parker, starting in private practice himself in a reversal of roles for the two judges. He announced his retirement as judge last December, saying that he had sent a letter to the Governor’s office about his intention to step down in June.
“The citizens of La Paz County are extremely lucky that Matt has decided to enter public service and become our next Superior Court Judge,” Vederman told Parker Live. “I am very happy for him.”
Vederman was recently designated to join 6 justices on the bench at the Arizona Supreme Court, hearing a case which will be considered precedent-setting on whether patients owe a duty of reasonable care to their caregivers. Chief Justice Scott Bales authored the opinion of the court after meeting with the other justices and Vederman, who all joined him in a unanimous decision. The court found that caregivers may bring a lawsuit against patients who cause them injury out of negligence.
After receiving the gavel from Vederman, Newman received his robe from his sons, Justin Cheatwood, CWO2 and Mitchell Newman, CTT3, both in the U.S. Armed Forces. Newman became emotional as he described how his family had flown in to be there for his investiture.
Describing the previous 3 judges on the court, Newman said La Paz County had been lucky to have the legal minds of Vederman, Michael Burke before him and the late Michael Irwin before him. He said he hoped he could serve in accordance with the standards set by his predecessors. Burke was also in attendance at the ceremony.