Home Local News Tucson judge faces ethics charges from state judicial commission | Local news

Tucson judge faces ethics charges from state judicial commission | Local news


Pima County Justice of the Peace Adam Watters is facing formal ethics charges surrounding his conduct in a February 2021 confrontation.

The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct announced ethics charges against Watters for violating state judicial conduct rules and the Arizona Constitution in February 2021 when he fired a gun at the ground near Fei Qin, a plaintiff who previously appeared before the judge at court hearings. The charges also center around Watters’ conduct when he was served a subpoena.

In response to the charges, Watters said he fired a “warning shot” at Qin, after he “suddenly lunged” at him, and that Qin scattered trash around his Catalina Foothills home and stalked him and his family for weeks.

A jury convicted Qin on stalking charges in December, and a judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

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Watters was not criminally charged in the shooting after a review by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.

The commission also brought ethics charges against Watters for his interaction with a process server who served the judge with a subpoena to appear in court for Qin’s criminal case. According to the commission’s statement of charges, Watters called the subpoena “horse(expletive deleted)” and used other expletives in reference to Qin and his attorney.

The judicial commission is an independent state agency that investigates judicial misconduct claims among Arizona’s judges. It’s made up of six judges, two attorneys and three public members.

The commission alleges Watters’ actions violated rules in the judicial code that state, “A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.” And that, “a judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety.”

The commission said Watters’ violated the state constitution, “which forbids a judge to engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute,” according to the statement.

Counsel for the commission requested a commission hearing panel find Watters in violation of the cited rules and statutes and recommend to the Supreme Court that the judge “be censured, suspended or removed from judicial office.” No date has been set for a formal hearing.

The judicial commission also mentions past discipline Watters has received for appearing in a photo on his law firm’s website wearing his judicial robe, using harsh language toward an attorney, posting “inappropriate” and “misleading” campaign material and transferring a civil matter to a judge in a different county in a “back door manner,” the statement said.

In a response to the statement of charges, Watters asked the commission to dismiss its statement and said it made “errors and omissions.” He denied the underlying incidents that caused the judge’s past discipline, except for the photo on the law firm’s website.

“The question for this commission is simple: Is a judge entitled to less protection and less right to protect his or her family, home and person than anyone else?” Watters’ response to the ethics charges said.

Watters is not running for reelection to the position. A court spokeswoman told the Star that Watters declined comment because it’s a pending legal matter.

Contact reporter Nicole Ludden at nludden@tucson.com

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