Meet the Judge

Johnston has deep roots in Paradise Valley

The Paradise Valley Municipal Court is one of the busiest in the state of Arizona, with each clerk handling about 10,000 case filings per year.
The Paradise Valley Municipal Court is one of the busiest in the state of Arizona, with each clerk handling about 10,000 case filings per year.
Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey
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Name: Sherwood Johnston, III

Where I live: I am currently in the process of building a new house in Paradise Valley on the site of a house formerly owned by my mother’s best friend. While that design and construction process is underway, I have been in temporary quarters in Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale. My family moved to Paradise Valley when I was 3 years old and have lived here a majority of my life.

Where I attended school: I went to Kiva Elementary School in Paradise Valley, Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, and Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, Texas

How long I’ve worked in the legal profession: This is my 28th year with the Town of Paradise Valley Municipal Court. I’ve also worked as a judicial officer in the Maricopa County Justice Court system for the last 15 years.

Why I decided to pursue a career in the legal profession: My love for the legal profession began when I was involved in commercial real estate. I spent years negotiating and modifying complex lease agreements, construction documents and service contracts. It occurred to me that if I could do that, I could do the rest of it.

Why I volunteer for the local municipal court: My parents were always involved in the community, and I had always observed their involvement. It seemed natural for me to volunteer where my talents would be of most benefit. It means a great deal for me to give back to the community in which I was raised and lived for all these years. I have always loved being a part of the town.

What is the most rewarding part of being a judge: To me, the most rewarding part of being a judge is helping people who access the court. Most people’s only interaction with a court is at the Municipal or Justice Court, and most of that contact is for a minor traffic infraction. When people arrive, they don’t know what to expect, they are nervous, and they think the judge is going to hard to deal with. I get to show them that judges are people too. I try to help people understand what is actually happening in the Courtroom as well as the process around the Courtroom. I get the opportunity to help people understand their rights and options. I understand that people have other things going on in their lives, and that the court is an unwelcome, but necessary imposition. Yes, I may need to impose a fine or other penalty, but I hope that each person has been made to feel like they were helped through the process like I would want my mother helped.

What I like to do in my spare time? I’m doing it, helping with the court. In addition to volunteering at the court, I also volunteer as the President of the Arizona Magistrates Association and on the Board of the Arizona Justice of the Peace Association. I also volunteer as a mentor for new judges and serve on the Judicial College of Arizona’s Judicial Conference Planning Committee.

Who was the biggest influence in your life? Why? While there were many people who influenced my life, the one that seems to influence my judicial life the most is my grandfather. He is the one who instilled in me that having respect for the janitor was just as important, maybe even more important, than the company president. That resonates well for me when I am dealing with court customers.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a legal profession? A wise individual once gave the advice that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I think that’s generally good advice. At least, it seems to work well for me.

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