By Marion Vendituoli
July 15, 2020

The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a letter of reprimand on June 10 to Keith Barth, of Sonoita. Barth, who is running for the office of Santa Cruz County Sheriff, was issued this reprimand as a result of a complaint filed by Peter Potosky, of Elgin. “The complainant alleged a city court magistrate abused the prestige of judicial office,” according to the disposition of the complaint. Potosky referred to posts on Barth’s Facebook page, dating back to February 2020 where he is referred to as “Judge Barth.” Barth serves as a part-time magistrate for Huachuca City Magistrate Court. Previously, Barth was the Justice of the Peace for Santa Cruz County JP district 2, which the county closed in 2019.

The letter of reprimand states that “Judge Barth’s conduct in using his judicial title/status in connection with his campaign for Santa Cruz County Sheriff violated Rule 1.3 of the Code, which states, ‘A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.’ As an aggravating factor, the Commission found that Judge Barth had previously been reprimanded by the Commission regarding an election-related matter.” 

Barth had been reprimanded previously, in February, 2019, by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, after a complaint was filed by Potosky and Brock Fuller, of New Mexico, alleging that Barth had engaged in improper political activity while serving as Justice of the Peace. The commission found that Barth violated six rules of conduct by publicly disclosing his candidacy for sheriff while serving as a judge.   

Potosky stated in the most recent complaint that “Barth is running against a fifth-generation Nogales rancher and retired DEA Station Chief. JD Hathaway only lost the last election by 360 votes against a 30+ year incumbent. Barth has NO CHANCE OF getting elected as SCC Sheriff.” 

Barth’s response to the complaint includes his belief that Potosky is engaged in electioneering. “I have filed a formal criminal complaint with the Arizona Attorney General regarding this complaint and how I believe Mr. Pototsky is attempting to use this Commission in his electioneering efforts for the 2020 political campaign for Santa Cruz County Sheriff,” Barth wrote to the Commission. 

In a recent communication with the Patagonia Regional Times, Barth wrote that “there was a politically motivated judicial complaint filed against me. The complaint was over Facebook photo posts, one where I was referred to as “Judge Barth” in the caption and another photo that was taken after I performed a wedding while I was still in my clerical robe, as I am an ordained minister. The Judicial Commission heard the case and has taken no action with the exception that I have been publicly disciplined for the use of my title as Judge in a photo caption.”