HEIR OF OPTIMISM

RELATIVES OF SENIORS WHOSE ESTATES WERE PLUNDERED HOPE FOR JUSTICE

Webber Mackey served as president of that association as recently as 1990.
Anne Lindeman says a bill to be introduced in the Arizona Senate during its upcoming session would require private fiduciaries to register with the Arizona Supreme Court. County probate judges and commissioners would then be obliged to report serious problems concerning a fiduciary to the high court, which would in turn alert other counties.

While the new law would fall short of forcing private fiduciaries to face a licensing process, the statewide monitoring system would be a good step, Lindeman says.

"Even the honest private fiduciaries agree some regulation is a good thing," she says. "At least, they won't be able to hop from county to county when things happen to go bad for them."
State senators Patti Noland, a Republican, and Chuck Blanchard, a Democrat, plan to sponsor the private fiduciary bill. Blanchard says he and Noland contemplated sponsoring such legislation before the Legg/Mackey story broke, but they weren't sure how it would fly.

"No one wants to go out of their way to regulate," Blanchard says, "but the story made many, many legislators far more interested in probate abuses than they had been previously."
Attorneys representing the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary--which represents 25 estates allegedly plundered by the two men--are scheduled to appear tomorrow before presiding county Probate Court Judge Robert Myers. Among those also slated to appear at the status conference are attorneys for the surety companies which bonded Mackey's fiduciary practice. The Public Fiduciary is demanding that the companies pay nearly $1.1 million to the estates of 14 senior citizens under Mackey's control.

On November 23, Judge Myers ordered Legg's former law firm--now called Killian, Nicholas, Fischer, Wirken, Cook and Pew--to refund $31,833 to the estate of the late Eula Snyder Wager. Myers issued his order after lawyers for the county Public Fiduciary objected to the fees as unreasonable, and noted the Mesa firm never had produced proof or justification for its billings.

No one from the firm appeared for the hearing, though court records show Judge Myers notified Killian partner Charles Wirkin and William P. French, who is representing the firm's legal interests.

"The law firm has known that the Public Fiduciary objected to the approval of the payment of the fees," Judge Myers wrote in a court memorandum, "and has done nothing to justify [them]. . . ."
The Wager estate is one of nine Legg/Mackey accounts not covered by surety bonds; Legg's ex-law firm and Mackey will be asked to make restitution in those cases.

While Judge Myers won't comment directly on Legg or Mackey, he did tell fellow judges shortly after his appointment in October 1992 that he was "appalled, saddened and distressed at the cruelty and inhumanity which . . . have been heaped upon the helpless [wards]."

Now in his early 60s, Wayne Legg was a longtime partner in the venerable Mesa firm founded by former congressman John J. Rhodes and C. Max Killian, father of current Arizona legislator Mark Killian. Legg has served as chief counsel for Arizona State University, was the onetime Maricopa County chairman of the Republican party, and was widely considered one of the East Valley's most powerful barristers.

In June 1992, Legg's law firm took his name off its sign on Center Street in downtown Mesa. At the time, according to sources cited by New Times, Legg's partners gave him two options: If he promised never to practice law again, they'd pay him about $175,000 under a previous partnership agreement; if he continued his legal career on his own, they'd pay him about $125,000 under the agreement.

Legg is said to have promised to quit the practice of law. But he hasn't gone into retreat at his plush Scottsdale residence, located near the Phoenician resort.

On a rainy Saturday morning in October, Legg was seen hobnobbing with mostly elderly folks at an estate auction of a modest home in Sun City. Legg was present as trustee of the estate. (It is not necessary under Arizona law to be a lawyer to serve as an estate's trustee.) Legg flew in two auctioneers from rural Kentucky, where he has substantial land holdings, to conduct the half-hour-long sale.

State Bar of Arizona officials say Legg has voluntarily promised not to practice law, possibly until bar complaints pending against him are resolved.

But chief bar counsel Harriet Turney is prohibited by Arizona Supreme Court rules from even acknowledging bar complaints against Legg at this stage of the proceedings. (Two sources have told New Times they filed complaints against Legg with the State Bar.)

Turney says it takes a minimum of four months to determine if "probable cause" exists that any complaint is valid. If the bar determines a complaint merits further scrutiny and an attorney fights the charge, she adds, the process may take a few years to complete.

Turney also can't say whether bar complaints are pending against the Maricopa County commissioners and judges who gave Legg and Mackey free rein.

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