Courthouse in Sonoita closes to save money

Courthouse closed in Sonoita

SONOITA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Court is adjourned permanently at the justice court in Sonoita, as part of an effort to save money for Santa Cruz County.

The story began in March with the possibility of the court closing, and the final say was given in August when the county voted to close the court.

It was a sad day in Sonoita as Judge Keith Barth sat on the bench for one final time Friday morning, Dec. 28.

It started off as business as usual in the courthouse, but everyone knew why they were there - to be a witness to the last case in Judge Barth's courtroom.

"Such a mix of emotions, it was a sad day for Sonoita. A sad day for the community," said Kat Crockett, who lives in Elgin. "He's such a tremendous giver, he stands for everything that's right. He has introduced to so many people that have been our close friends, he's impacted our life in so many ways it's amazing and I am just one person."

This community loves Judge Barth, who stated the people in the town consider him as a source of information.

However, that source won't be found at the courtroom next to the library anymore.

"I have been their connection to the county in many ways and not just through the court," he said.

Officials in Santa Cruz County decided to close the court due to the budget, stating they can save nearly $200,000 a year. It was a decisiion that many disagreed with and fought, including Judge Barth.

"I was blown away that they would do away with me because I did save the county thousands and thousands of dollars," said Judge Barth. "But they have their reasons and I have to respect that."

He wanted to leave on high note, helping a man that had thousands of dollars in citations. The man had paid $500 of the fine and was trying to pay off the rest.

"I felt that he had given enough, as far as the monetary situation goes and I suspected the rest so he could move on with his life," said Judge Barth.

So with a strike of the judge's gavel, the case was closed and so was the courtroom.

"It has been a huge honor for me to serve the public, to serve the county and it will remain near and dear to my heart up until my dying day," Barth said.

Now that the court is closed, Sonoita residents will have to take care of court business in Nogales or Patagonia.

As for the actual courtroom, it is not clear what will happen to it.

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