Former state official seeks judge-dad’s seat

Former Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan is hoping to succeed her father Michael Reagan as Scottsdale Justice of the peace.

Six Scottsdale residents have submitted applications to become the next Justice of the Peace for the McDowell Mountain Precinct, including former Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan.

The precinct includes much of Scottsdale and parts of Phoenix with boundaries that reach Tatum Boulevard to the west, McDowell Mountain Road to the east, Thomas Road to the south and Stagecoach Pass to the north.

The candidates are vying to replace Judge Michael Reagan, who served in the position for 15 years before retiring on July 26 — and who also is Michelle Reagan’s father.

Justice Courts have jurisdiction over minor civil lawsuits and criminal offenses, including lawsuits where the amount in dispute is less than $10,000, DUI charges and misdemeanor allegations such as shop lifting.

Justices of the Peace can also handle requests for orders of protection and injunctions against harassment.

Judge Michael Reagan will continue to serve as judge pro tempore in the McDowell Mountain Precinct until the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appoints a replacement.

The Board of Supervisors is responsible for naming Reagan’s replacement.

A Maricopa County Spokesman said the Board will likely name the replacement at its next meeting at the end of August, though that has not been confirmed.

The individual appointed to the position will then run for the office in the 2020 primary and general elections for a chance to complete the term, which runs through 2022.

State statute requires that the new Justice of the Peace be a resident of the McDowell Mountain Precinct, a registered voter and a registered Republican, according to a Maricopa County press release.

A Justice of the Peace in Arizona can earn a salary between $36,250 and $101,500 based on the volume of cases heard by the judge. 

The candidates for the position are Michele Reagan, Sherwood Johnston III, Lorie B. Patrick, Christopher T. Hoynicki, Biju Panicker and A. Douglas LaSota.

Michele Reagan

Michele Reagan recently served as Arizona’s secretary of state from January 2015 through January 2019 before losing her re-election bid in the 2018 Republican primary to Steve Gaynor.

Prior to being elected Secretary of State, Reagan served at the Arizona Legislature as a representative from 2003 to 2011 and a senator from 2011 to 2013.

Reagan is currently a faculty associate at Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions where she taught a course on public service ethics in spring 2019.

Reagan’s time in public office was not without controversy as the Arizona Attorney General found in 2016 that she violated the law when, as secretary of state, she failed to mail out about 200,000 election pamphlets, according to the Arizona Capitol Times. 

The Arizona Attorney General looked into Reagan again earlier this year after current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told the Attorney General that Reagan and her staff may have deleted official emails before leaving office, according to reports by the AZ Mirror and The Arizona Republic.

A spokesman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said the 2019 matter has since been closed and court records show the Attorney General did not pursue charges.

Prior to entering public office, Reagan operated her family’s sign manufacturing business in Phoenix for 10 years.

Reagan has received training from the Judicial College of Arizona and completed the new judge orientation program offered by the Arizona Supreme Court. She also took courses offered by the Maricopa County Superior Court.

She has received support from Gov. Doug Ducey and three members of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Sherwood Johnston III

Johnston is currently a Paradise Valley Municipal Court Judge and has served in that position since 2001. In that role he oversees various criminal and civil code violation hearings.

He has also worked as a hearing officer and bailiff for the Paradise Valley Municipal Court.

Since 2008, Johnston has also been a Justice of the Peace, Pro Tempore for Maricopa County who substitutes for elected justices on a temporary basis.

Prior to that, Johnston was a small claims hearing officer and civil traffic hearing officer for Maricopa County.

Johnston has undergone training with the Judicial College of Arizona, National Judicial College and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Johnston also has a long resume as a commercial real estate and business executive in Arizona and holds a real estate broker’s license in Arizona. 

Lorie B. Patrick

Patrick, a Scottsdale native, has served as a judge pro tempore in Scottsdale City Court for 11 years. Patrick is also a judge pro tempore for Fountain Hills, Tempe and El Mirage.

She is also a judge pro tempore for the justice courts of Maricopa County and recently served in the McDowell Mountain Precinct.  

The Saguaro High School and Arizona State University graduate earned her law degree from California Western School of Law in 1994 and was employed by a San Diego-based firm until 1996 when she was admitted to the State Bar of Arizona and returned to this state. 

Patrick stopped practicing law in 2017 in order to become a judge pro tempore full time.


Christopher T. Hoynicki

Hoynicki graduated from the Washington and Lee University School of Law in May 2018 and has practiced law in the Valley since September 2018.

Hoynicki was a bankruptcy and tax attorney with Mesa’s Pew Law Center for nine months and is currently an attorney with the Law Offices of Scott M. Clark in Phoenix.

During his education, Hoynicki held an externship with Judge Rebecca B. Connelly, United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia; was a summer law clerk for the Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley; and was a summer associate with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Hoynicki was a manager with Bank of America and supervised over 40 employees.

Biju Panicker

Panicker graduated from Arizona Summit School of Law, formerly Phoenix School of Law, in 2015 and has worked as a small claims hearing officer with the Maricopa County Justice Court since 2018. He has also been a mediator with the same court since 2016.

Panicker was previously a fellow with the Arizona Health and Hospitals Association and held legal internships with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Tempe City Attorney’s Office and the Never Again Foundation.

He also held externships with Maricopa County Superior Court and the United States Department of State. 

Prior to pursuing a law degree, Panicker was an EMT and police officer and is currently an EMT and fire science instructor with Maricopa County Community Colleges.

Panicker was an officer with the New York City Police Department from 2005 to 2007 and with the Phoenix Police Department from July 2007 to March 2008.

A. Douglas LaSota

Retired Judge A. Douglas LaSota most recently served two five-year terms as the Presiding Magistrate Judge in the City of Cottonwood in northern Arizona, ending in 2019.

He also worked as a juvenile hearing officer for the Yavapai County Superior Court for 10 years and as a judge pro tempore for Maricopa County Justice Courts and municipal courts in the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler and Mesa.

Prior to becoming a judge, LaSota had a long career as a lawyer after graduating from Arizona State University’s College of Law in 1980. He received permanent admission to the State Bar of Arizona in 1980 and was also admitted to the U.S. District Court for Arizona and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

During his career, LaSota has worked as a deputy public defender in Maricopa County, assistant city prosecutor with City of Phoenix and operated his own law firm.