It was a "historic occasion" for the Yavapai County court system. Yavapai Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Brutinel Wednesday told the audience that filled the Mingus Union High School auditorium, "This is the first time we have held such a ceremony outside the original old courthouse in Prescott and the first time that we have ever come to the Verde Valley for the ceremony."
The presiding judge signaled the investiture of Michael Bluff as Superior Court Judge assigned to the new Division 7 in the Verde Valley Justice Facility. It was significant in that Bluff was saluted by a mentor and former Superior Court judge from the Verde Valley and sworn-in by the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.
The auditorium stage was filled with black robes of current and former judges. Lower court judges sat in the audience. Seats were also filled with local dignitaries and other members of the court system.
Judge Brutinel told the gathering that the court will provide increased resources to meet the needs of growth of Yavapai County, including the addition of the third division in the Verde courts.
"What we have not had, at least since Judge Anderson retired in the Verde Valley, is a judge that is part of this community, a judge that understands the particular needs and concerns of the citizens of the Verde and of the Verde Bar Association. Judge Bluff is well-suited to fill those shoes," Brutinel said. "He cares about the people in the community that he serves. He will call on his experiences to resolve the cases that come before him justly and fairly."
Former Superior Court Judge Richard Anderson, the only other judge appointed from the Verde, recalled that when he was on the bench, Yavapai County had only three judges, as many as are now seated in the Verde Valley alone. Anderson served as the first full-time Superior Court judge in the Verde Valley.
He said he had encouraged Bluff to seek a career in the judiciary. "It is one of the highest callings," Judge Anderson said. "Mike has the decisiveness, the humility, the patience, the dignity and the judicial independence for the job. What a marvelous thing to do for the people over here. A solid human being has been appointed to the bench."
Justice Ruth McGregor, presiding justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, administered the oath to the new judge. Bluff's wife, Kerrie, and daughter, Jennifer, assisted him with his robe.
When Bluff addressed the crowd, it was a message for the hundreds of Mingus social studies students who filled the back of the auditorium. He remembered walking across the Mingus stage as a high school graduate, when the size of graduations allowed them to be held indoors.
He said that he had been a below-average student in high school. At that time, "I would have never imagined that one day I would be sworn in as a Superior Court Judge."
His parents and teachers had encouraged him and promised, "If I studied hard, gave my best and stuck to it, I would make it through. If I can do this, every one of you can do anything you want in life. If you commit to working hard, if you commit to not giving up, you will accomplish things you never could have imagined in life."