A community leader, advocate, champion for women, and Arizona’s longest-serving judge, Elizabeth R. Finn, Glendale’s former presiding judge, will be honored for serving others on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
“It is really exciting to be acknowledged,” Finn said. “I’ve won a lot of awards in my 43 years of being a judge. This one is for the West Valley, so that’s kind of exciting.”
The West Valley Women Networking Association’s 2021 Woman of the Year luncheon is noon Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, Peoria. For tickets, call 602-573-7496 or visit
Lisa E. Platt, chief connections officer of the West Valley Women Networking Association, said the organization honored Finn for myriad reasons, including her advocacy for domestic violence survivors.
“She helped rewrite some of the domestic violence laws that ultimately helped victims become survivors,” Platt said. “Judge Finn also established specialty courts for cases involving domestic violence, homelessness and mental health.”
Finn has been the interim court administrator in Carefree and Cave Creek for about two months. Prior to that, she was in El Mirage for the same length of time.
“I’m making the rounds around the Valley,” she said with a laugh. “Seriously, there were a couple of courts that needed support in the area. Because I had the knowledge — or I was willing to learn — they reached out to me. I only had one month off (as a retiree). I retired at the end of March, and I had April off. I was called for El Mirage, and then I was only off four days when I was called for Carefree/Cave Creek.”
Finn, 74, told the Glendale City Council of her retirement two years in advance.
“I didn’t really know in 2019 how I was going to feel in 2021,” she said. “I thought, ‘We’ll see what happens in 2021.’ I’ve been blessed with two opportunities now. I can perform every position in court at this point.”
Finn’s mother, Ruth G. Finn, was a member of the founding class at ASU College of Law at the age of 48, graduating summa cum laude. Finn graduated two years after her mother in 1972. She worked at her father’s law firm prior to being appointed to the Phoenix Municipal Court, May 1, 1979.
Her father, Herbert B. Finn is well known for his civil rights work, particularly a predecessor to the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education case. He did so with Hayzel B. Daniels, the first Black lawyer and first Black judge in Arizona.
As a Jew, Finn has seen her share of discrimination. In high school, she saw signs that said hotels or other properties refused to serve people based on race, creed or color.
“That meant me,” she said. “My dad and Hayzel lost business doing this civil rights work. It wasn’t like it was popular back then. But they’ve both been recognized in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. I wonder what they would think about it now.”
The dinner table at her parents’ home was a “very political discussion about current events.”
“We were raised on politics,” she added. “We didn’t have to learn it. It was discussed frequently. I didn’t find my passion until I became a judge.”
It was then that Finn used her passion for civil rights, mental illness, homelessness and domestic abuse issues.
As a presiding judge for the Glendale City Court, she created and implemented specialty courts that include domestic violence treatment and mental health courts.
In the early 1980s, she was asked to handle a domestic violence section of a judicial conference. It took that one session and working with experts to learn that things had to change.
“The police needed to respond differently,” said Finn, who worked for Glendale from Oct. 28, 2002, until her retirement on March 25. “The court needed to respond to victims differently.
“I discovered that the criminal justice system victimized victims of domestic violence,” said Finn, who worked for Glendale from Oct. 28, 2002, until her retirement on March 25. “Things needed to be changed. I worked for decades changing domestic laws.”
She was responsible for the launch of Arizona’s first city Domestic Violence Treatment Court program without probation resources and the management of over $1.5 million in domestic violence grant awards.
The Mental Health Court followed, and it was one of two Supreme Court-designated city courts to conduct their own mental competency hearings.
The pilot resulted in legislation for all limited jurisdiction courts to preside over these proceedings.
It had a direct effect on the public, she said.
“Our goal was not to punish them but have them become stable so they would not reoffend,” she said. “That was a court I did every week from 2013. We had to shut down March 13, 2020, and we opened again on June 8, 2021, via Zoom.
“We couldn’t see each other. We’re unable to manage the Zoom app sufficiently. That was the most stable thing in these individuals’ lives. During that time, they said they wanted to see their judge. They took it very personally.”
“I was so fortunate to grow up in a house filled with passion to make the world a better place. My wish would be for everyone to find their passion to effectuate change.”