SURPRISE, AZ - A former Arizona Justice of the Peace, forced off the bench for misconduct, is back on the ballot and looking for redemption.
Phillip Woolbright is running in the August 28 Republican Primary Election for Arrowhead Justice of the Peace in the northwest Valley. He is challenging incumbent Craig Wismer.
Woolbright claims his past troubles came from politically-motivated and unfair attacks during a messy divorce. Court documents show he got in a physical fight with his now ex-wife in 2011, and then he dodged getting served with an order of protection. He was later arrested for allegedly violating the order, but he appealed the case.
An official judicial conduct investigation found Woolbright "abused the prestige of his office," "eroding public confidence." The Arizona Supreme Court took a rare action in 2012, removing him from the bench for five years.
Woolbright says the original complaints against him were exaggerations.
"I've been beaten up pretty bad, and a lot of it was unjust," Woolbright said. "I've been a victim of that, but I've overcome."
In the years since Woolbright has fought to redeem his reputation. He even sued a few other judges for defamation, arguing they lied about him.
Current Arrowhead Justice of the Peace Craig Wismer urges voters to think about his challenger's past.
"This is not even a checkered past," Wismer said. "This is substantial."
Wismer says a Justice of the Peace should be a person "of good moral character, frankly, that's me."
Wismer says he likes his job because he gets to explain the law and options to people who come to his court, often without a lawyer, mostly for misdemeanors and small civil cases.
Woolbright tells ABC15 he wants to reform the Justice Courts, to offer more defendants alternatives to jail, which could save taxpayers' money.