In 2019, Aimee was sued by the Anthem Community Council for violating HOA rules. What should have been a straightforward case about whether there were any violations was instead a perfect illustration of the brand of "justice" being offered to residents of the North Valley.
- THE JUDGE WAS PREJUDICED. At the pre-trial meeting, before any evidence was presented by either party, Judge Gerald Williams declared that "There is no doubt you owe some amount of money to them [the HOA]". A court is a place for determining facts, but this cannot happen when the judge assumes the facts without any evidence.
- THE JUDGE WAS LAZY. Aimee filed a counterclaim alleging that there was an invalid lien on her home. Without any explanation, Judge Williams threw out Aimee's counterclaim. The rules for dismissing a counterclaim are no different than for dismissing a lawsuit, and the judge should have given Aimee a hearing. The appeals court reinstated Aimee's countersuit, but you should not have to appeal to get justice in the North Valley.
- THE JUDGE WAS APATHETIC. Judge Williams decided the case in favor of the HOA by granting a "summary judgment", which is used only when facts aren't in dispute and the parties only disagree about how the law should be applied. This was completely inappropriate in Aimee's case, where the two sides were arguing about whether HOA rules were violated. The appeals court overturned the summary judgment and Aimee learned that Judge Williams is repeatedly overturned on appeal for incorrectly granting summary judgment.
- THE JUDGE WAS MALICIOUS. Aimee lost her case before Judge Williams and was ordered to pay a crazy judgment of $12,386.90. In addition to being wildly inappropriate for a case involving HOA violations, this amount is not even within the $10,000 limit for cases in justice court. More than a year after she was sued, the judgment in Aimee's case was overturned by the appeals court and transferred to the Hassayampa Justice Court. Now in front of a new judge, Aimee was able to reach a settlement where, instead of Aimee paying more than $12,000, the HOA paid her $1,000 to settle her counterclaim. Appealing the lawsuit and removing it from Judge Williams' courtroom made a $13,000 difference to Aimee.
Appealing a bad decision in justice court is expensive and risky. Aimee was lucky because the list of Judge Williams' mistakes was long and egregious. In cases that rely less on documentary evidence--like those involving traffic offenses or misdemeanors--a successful appeal is unlikely. Especially in these types of cases, you need a judge who will be fair and open to evidence from both sides. The voters in the North Valley must demand fairness from their justice of the peace and not hope for it on appeal.