La Paz County Superior Court Judge Jessica Quickle was reprimanded by the State of Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct last month for her treatment of colleagues in the workplace.
Complaints dating from September and October of last year, along with follow-up interviews with six court employees, alleged improper demeanor both on and off the bench by Quickle, who was sworn in as judge in January 2019. Among other things, the complaints stated that Quickle caused one clerk enough “panic and stress” that she had to take a day off work, that she created an impersonal, intimidating atmosphere at the courts, that she yelled at and otherwise berated people and that she took out her frustrations on the people around her.
In one incident which happened remotely, Quickle had lost her connection to a Zoom proceeding, and a court clerk said she felt “disrespected and mistreated” in the presence of several other parties as she tried to work on the re-connection to the judge, which “was extremely embarrassing”.
In another, the same court clerk said she was yelled at in person for letting people into the courtroom early, despite her not having done so. Quickle allegedly slammed a door and then yelled at former Clerk of the Superior Court Megan Spielman, who is now La Paz County Administrator.
Supplemental issues related to how Quickle interacted with other elected officials when she disagreed with them, specifically around issues of transporting inmates to and from court hearings, providing security for the court and the resumption of jury duties during the pandemic.
And a bailiff said Quickle had a habit of “[flying] off the handle” and then coming back and apologizing, saying that he had often felt “embarrassed” by the judge in front of jurors and other parties, and that he had considered leaving because he didn’t want to work somewhere he was unhappy. The bailiff called her a “bully” and repeatedly told the interviewer that the office staff live in fear of Quickle.
In a written response last December, Quickle refuted some of the allegations, saying she was at a loss to understand the clerk’s description of her behavior. She attached text messages which showed a pleasant interaction about the Zoom problems, with Quickle joking, “It’s Friday, and my iPad wants to go home! [laugh emoji]” and a response via text of a GIF featuring Sponge Bob Squarepants.
In regard to the door slamming, Quickle said it slams “automatically” if one forgets to hold it open. She admitted having “firm” disagreements with the other officials, especially around the issue of how to do business in the middle of a pandemic, and said she felt her assertiveness on such things was “essential to fulfilling [her] duties.”
Quickle said when she took over as judge, she had more than 1000 open cases to deal with, and worked seven days a week in addition to all the training needed to onboard her as judge. She said she still routinely works six days a week to stay on top of the case load.
“Simply put,” she wrote to the Commission, “this is a difficult time for everyone, and it is perhaps unsurprising that some employees have misunderstood or maybe even resented me somewhat through the process. It is also likely that in my effort to accomplish all these tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic that I was more impersonal than both staff and I would prefer.”
Quickle said she had re-evaluated her interactions with staff and other officials “as well as [her] overall demeanor with the goal of avoiding any further misunderstandings or hurt feelings.”
Nevertheless, the Commission found a “pattern of Judge Quickle yelling or using an angry, rapid-fire tone with individuals during the time she has been on the bench.”
She was reprimanded formally for violating Rule 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which relates to treatment of people in the courtroom, and ordered to complete some new trainings on leadership and mindfulness for judges.
The Commission’s ruling and related documents can be found HERE.