Cele Hancock was a judge in the Superior Court in Yavapai County. She recently resigned after being convicted of a DUI.
Ms. Hancock was elected in 2010 to the Superior Court in Yavapai County – she ran unopposed! Unbelievably, she ran unopposed again in 2014, 2018, and 2022.
Ms. Hancock largely presided over family court cases during her time as a judge. She had a history of being censured by the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct for inappropriate conduct in court.
In one instance, “the commission found that Judge Hancock was not ‘patient, dignified, and courteous” when she told the family court litigants, “I honestly don’t give a crap about either one of these people.” See here for the censure.
In a related complaint, it was noted that she stated to the parents in a case that “I don’t give a crap about any of you”. See here for the censure. Again, not particularly patient, dignified, or courteous.
In the wake of the DUI charges earlier this year, Arizona’s Family CBS 5 spoke with over 2 dozen people who had appeared before Ms. Hancock in family court. One mother said, “The fear of retribution and retaliation like that shouldn’t exist in the justice system.” Another mother said, “If she doesn’t like what you have to say, she’ll make you know”. See the Arizona Family article here.
My own experience appearing before Ms. Hancock was not much better than that of the litigants who were involved in the above complaints. Her behavior stood out as unusual from all of the other judges I have appeared before over my 17 years as an attorney. I found her to be particularly combative and impatient with litigants and counsel alike.
Anyway, this is one of those situations where things appear to have worked out for the best.
In March 2023, Ms. Hancock decided to run to the grocery store after having some wine. The Prescott Police Department received numerous calls from citizens about Ms. Hancock due to her stumbling through the grocery store and then driving off.
The police located Ms. Hancock driving and the traffic stop was caught on video.
As one might imagine, a judge being convicted of a DUI implicates some ethical issues. The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct released a statement on November 3, 2023. In part, the statement said, “The Commission has agreed to forgo seeking formal disciplinary sanctions against Judge Hancock and will close the pending complaint. The stipulated resolution provides a prompt and final resolution to the pending complaint, while also protecting the public and the integrity of the judiciary.”
As part of the agreement with the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct, Ms. Hancock agreed to resign, and to never serve as a judicial officer in the State of Arizona again. Finally a blight on the legal community of Prescott is removed.