Merrill v. Phelps

In Merrill v. Phelps, 52 Ariz. 526, 84 P.2d 74 (1938), the court was confronted with one statute requiring a sheriff to "attend" certain courts within the county and obey their "lawful" orders and directions and another statute which allowed the court to direct the sheriff to provide "suitable and sufficient" attendants if not otherwise provided by the county. Id. at 530-31, 84 P.2d at 76-77. Describing the sheriff as the "executive arm of the court," the court held the sheriff's selection of his deputies was not within the jurisdiction of the court. Id. at 531, 84 P.2d at 77. Although the sheriff was, thus, entitled to select the deputies to attend the court, the supreme court nevertheless held the court, not the sheriff, had the right to determine if the attendants selected by the sheriff were "suitable and sufficient." Id. at 533, 84 P.2d at 78. The court went on to state: We think it follows impliedly from the statute that the judge, when the attendants are provided, has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of determining how many these attendants shall be, and they must act in accordance with his direction while in attendance upon the court, regardless of the instructions of any other person whatever, and if they do not so act, to the satisfaction of the judge, they are not "suitable and sufficient for the transaction of business" of the court, and he may require that other attendants be provided satisfactory to him. Id. at 534, 84 P.2d at 78. In so holding, the court rejected the argument that to permit one public officer, the sheriff, to appoint court attendants who would then be subject to the exclusive control of another officer, the judge, would "give rise to such a conflict in authority" as to "hamper the court in the performance of its duty." Id. at 535, 84 P.2d at 78. The court explained it "must assume that a sheriff will at all times consult the judge in regard to the choice of the personnel who are to be attendants upon the court, and that the judge will not unreasonably reject any attendant selected by the sheriff." Id. Thus, the ultimate responsibility for determining whether a court officer was suitable rested with the court, even though the court officer had been selected by an officer in another branch of government.