Marana Town Council unanimously voted to reappoint Magistrate Laine Sklar to another two-year term on Sept. 19.
At 35 years old, Sklar has already served two years as Marana’s only judge, after nine years as a town prosecutor. She saw the position as a “new intellectual challenge,” she said. As judge, it’s important to her that people leave her courtroom feeling they’ve been treated fairly.
“No matter how a case turns out, if the individual feels that somebody truly listened to their side of the story, they leave with a little bit more satisfaction,” she said.
Sklar also give talks to legal groups on diversity and implicit bias. When she worked in the Marana legal department, she was a police legal advisor and she heard about the idea of implicit bias, or unconscious bias, at a training.
“When I got appointed, I felt like it would be a really good time for me to learn more about myself and how I look at the world, because that would help me make better decisions as a judge, and to understand the inner workings of my mind,” she said.
So she read a book called “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.” Soon after, the State Bar of Arizona asked her to give a presentation on diversity at its annual professionalism course, and she used some of what she learned about her own biases in her October 2015 talk. She’s since given that presentation a half-dozen times to legal professionals.
Sklar said it’s especially important for judges, who tend to consider themselves fairer than average people, to look at their hidden biases.
“The more fair you think you are, the less you’re going to do to combat your own implicit biases,” she said. “As judges, we have to make factual and legal determinations about people every day, so I think it’s even more important that we understand what sort of implicit biases that we may have, so that we can combat those in our decision making from the bench.”
She also volunteer-judges for Moot court, simulated proceedings for high school and college students studying law. The students fill all of the roles in a real court case: lawyers, judge, witnesses—and Sklar decides who did the best and why.
Sklar also opens the courthouse to host the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Explorers Competition, for high school students with an interest in law enforcement. Students practice cracking a case and testifying in court.
“I think that’s a really meaningful exercise,” she said. “A lot of people when they become police officers don’t realize that there’s a public speaking aspect to their job … I think it’s really valuable for the kids to get to come into court and have that experience.”
Sklar is working on enhancing courtroom security so it’s as safe as possible for citizens. And she wants it to be as accessible as possible. She accepts walk-ins everyday from people dealing with warrants, which she said is a mutually-beneficial practice for citizens and the town.
“Judge Sklar has done a terrific job as Town Magistrate,” said Town Manager Gilbert Davidson. “She serves the community in everything she does.”
Sklar moved to the area in 1992 as a child. She graduated high school in 2000 and earned her law degree. six years later In 2006, she became Marana’s assistant town attorney. Shortly after, she was promoted to senior town attorney before becoming Marana’s first female magistrate.
In her free time, she practices dressage with her horse Paladin SF, whom she calls PJ, and has won both local and national awards. While dressage is a challenging discipline, she said people who aren’t familiar with the sport, “equate it to watching paint dry.” Sklar equates it to figure skating.
Sklar finds being Marana’s magistrate very rewarding, but said, “You never know what the future may hold.” The day after the council reappointed her, Sklar brought in bagels for the courtroom staff and told them, “You’re stuck with me for at least another two years.”