New home for state's busiest justice court

By Tara Drach

If you’re one of the unlucky few who happens to get a traffic ticket somewhere this side of the I-10 Freeway, chances are you’ll end up paying for it at Tempe West Justice Court.

Its widely mapped jurisdiction, which sprawls across sections of the I-10, I-43 and 202 freeways, has helped to make this the busiest traffic court in Arizona.

Last year, says Judge Victor “Mike” Wilkins, a total of 13,200 traffic cases found their way to his courtroom.

That was too many for a justice court that originally was designed to handle only the overflow from the original Tempe judicial center at McClintock and Broadway roads.

“We were jammed in there,” said Wilkins, and although Maricopa County was making preparations for a courthouse on Dorsey Lane, “it just wasn’t happening.”

So, last month, county officials relocated the westside court to 8240 S. Kyrene Road, just a stone’s throw away from the Tempe police substation on Hardy Drive.

“We needed over 10,000 square feet of space and wanted the facility in the district,” Wilkins said.

The solution was to move to the southernmost part of the district.

The new facility has renovated and redesigned courts, holding facilities, offices for county attorneys and public defenders, mediation rooms and state-of-the-art clerical areas.

In addition, the entire facility has been designed to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Overall, Wilkins says, “This new court will allow us to provide better services to the community.”

The court hears criminal and civil cases, from DUI violations to small-claims matters to orders of protection and forcible detainers.

Wilkins’ longtime friend and “right-hand man”, Constable Don Calender, spends a majority of his work day serving the orders Wilkins executes.

“Tempe is half rental property,” said Wilkins. “Just when Don thinks he’s done for the day, we get another forcible detainer to serve,” Wilkins says.

Prior to being elected as west Tempe justice of the peace in 1999, Wilkins was a captain in the Tempe Police Department from 1964 to 1981.  He left Tempe to serve as chief of police in Lake Havasu City.