Pearce brother faces Ariz. judicial ethics charges

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Lester Pearce By Andrew Michalscheck Lester Pearce By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona's judicial conduct commission has filed ethics charges against a former Maricopa County justice of the peace who is a brother of former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce.

Allegations in the four counts announced Thursday include that Lester Pearce engaged in impermissible political activity while a judge, including publicly supporting Russell Pearce in a November 2011 recall race that Russell Pearce lost.

Russell Pearce is known nationally for championing laws against illegal immigration. He lost an Aug. 28 primary race for a state Senate nomination in a bid to return to the Legislature.

The charges against Lester Pearce also allege that he participated in the campaign of a woman who dropped out as a candidate in the recall race. The woman withdrew after critics of Russell Pearce accused her of being a sham candidate intended to dilute the vote against him.

In a formal response filed on his behalf, Lester Pearce denied he violated rules on political activity, put his judicial office into disrepute or wasn't honest with the commission.

"As to discussions with private citizens about events swirling around his brother, there is no prohibition barring a judge from sharing his private personal beliefs," the response said.

Pearce is no longer a justice of the peace, but he could be censured and ordered to reimburse the commission for its investigation costs.

The commission appointed a former judge to conduct a formal meeting. After the hearing, the commission would decide whether to recommend that the Arizona Supreme Court impose sanctions.

Lester Pearce lost a race for county supervisor in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

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