In Arizona, the courts have three levels namely Superior Court, Appellate Courts, and Limited Jurisdiction Courts. Each of the 15 counties, including Apache, has branches of the courts mentioned.
Limited Jurisdiction Courts are also known as Municipal and Justice Courts. These courts handle civil and criminal traffic violations, as well as small claims, misdemeanor crimes, and orders of protection. They also hear about civil complaints with a value of $10,000, injunctions against harassment, and evictions concerning landlords and tenants.
In Apache County, the Justice Courts are Chinle Justice Court, Round Valley Justice Court, Puerco (Sanders) Justice Court, and St. Johns Justice Court. Honorable Butch L. Gunnels presides over the Justice Court in St. Johns and serves as the Magistrate for the Municipal Court in the same city as well.
As for the Superior Court, it is Arizona’s general Jurisdiction Court and has locations in all the counties in the state, including Apache County. Every county has one or more Super Court judges who operate on their assigned divisions. In the case of Apache County, the Superior Court presiding judge is Honorable Michael Latham who has been in this position since 2014. Honorable Allan Perkins and Honorable Steve Williams serve as the judge pro tem of the county.
The constitution, statute, or rule grants the powers of the Superior Court, which can proceed to its ruling according to what the law states. Article VI Section 14 of the Arizona Constitution states that the Superior Court will have original jurisdiction of proceedings and cases where the law in other courts have not vested exclusive jurisdiction. It shall also have authority over equity cases, including the possession or title of a real property.
The Superior Court will also handle proceedings that tackle insolvency of an individual or company, matters of probate, actions to stop or lessen nuisance, and criminal cases that lead to a felony. This Court can also act as an Appellate Court for Municipal and Justice Courts.
Apache County has impressive courthouses, including the one in St. Johns. The historic building has a huge dome in the small town. It was built in 1917 and became the main building for St. Johns Courthouse a year after in April. The courthouse has two stories and the whole building only had a budget of $45,000.
The concrete building used native stone as its main wall material while the roofing composed of tar and gravel. Galvanized iron architrave was also utilized to form the building. In 1964, the building had other additions and more work was done, including the supplementations to the East, West, and North wings.
The county courthouse is situated at 70 West 3rd Street South or South 1st Street West. The building style is a classical revival with its architect from El Paso, Texas. It faces north and is quite easy to spot, thanks to the stone structure of the building that comes in a red-pinkish hue. The building contains a recessed portico that two stone columns support. On top, the observers can see a pediment that extends along the line of the roof.
In 1964, the building’s west side was added. Several years later, remodeling for the building was later performed in 1993. The contractor for the courthouse had a winning bid of a little over $36,300, which the Board of Supervisors approved in April of 1917. The company had eight months to conclude the construction of the courthouse building.
The El Paso Public Library has the drawings of the plan for this building, which comprised of eight sheets of ink-on-linen drawings, which included the front, rear, and side elevations. The plans were dated February 1917.