Power Play

County law enforcement's attack on the judiciary didn't work, but the war's far from over

Mundell tells New Times that she invited many "stakeholders" in Proposition 100 — prosecutors, defense attorneys, and others — to discuss the ongoing problems.

Thomas went to the Old Courthouse downtown with his team, but the meeting didn't go well. Mundell recalls that the County Attorney repeatedly asked her what punitive measures she would be taking against court officials who, in his view, had been responsible for the Mesa murder suspect's release.

"I explained to Mr. Thomas that we wouldn't be talking about that case if his prosecutor had done his job correctly," Mundell says. "He didn't say anything more about it."

The judge herself is of Mexican descent, a point that many court critics continue to harp on in letters to the editor, on radio talk shows and elsewhere, as if to say that, naturally, she'll always be willing to cut illegal aliens a break.

Also around this time, Justice McGregor pulled together the state's 15 presiding county court judges to discuss how they were implementing Prop 100.

"We found that counties were applying it differently, and it needed to be applied consistently," the justice tells New Times. "Disputes involving new laws and new systems are not uncommon, and usually make their way through the system, get worked out gradually. This was no exception."

In April, McGregor issued an order designed to tweak and clarify ways to implement Prop 100. She designed a new form that police officers must fill out for every arrest to "set forth facts that indicate whether a defendant entered or remained in this country illegally."

The justice says she expected there wouldn't be full compliance with her administrative order overnight: "We get that in all kinds of cases involving new rules and laws, especially in criminal cases. That's how it goes."

Then, in July, another new law signed by Governor Janet Napolitano lowered the troublesome burden of proof for prosecutors in Prop 100 cases to a "probable cause" standard, or about 15 percent certainty. That was far lower than the 75 percent burden that had been a stumbling block for many judges.

Though the problems surrounding Prop 100 seemed to slowly be sorting themselves out at the courthouse by midsummer, Andrew Thomas wasn't about to let that get in the way of a hot political issue.

Tim Ryan may have first slipped onto Thomas' radar screen after publication of two stories on Prop 100 in the East Valley Tribune.

In the first, published April 28, reporter Gary Grado summarized comments made by the judge about the logistical challenges in executing the proposition. Ryan also spoke about the delicate act of balancing the new law with other long-standing legal interests, such as a defendant's right to due process.

Then, on May 17, Thomas told the Tribune that county court judges were continuing to erect roadblocks to keep prosecutors from making cases to hold Prop 100 defendants without bail.

"This appears to be the latest example of judicial undermining of Prop 100," Thomas told the paper, adding — accurately in this instance — that judges were refusing to accept hearsay (secondhand statements) from police officers as evidence.

Ryan wouldn't respond directly in the Tribune to Thomas' remarks. But he did note, in general, that hearsay evidence must be "reliable" to be considered by a judge, and that a police officer testifying secondhand about a case is unreliable.

In October, Dennis Wilenchik, who had taken up the fight against Judge Ryan and the Superior Court on behalf of Thomas, alleged that Ryan had "chosen to use his elevated position of authority and the judicial forum as a means to impose his personal agenda on the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and on individual deputy county attorneys for reasons wholly unrelated to the matters directly pending in front of him."

Wilenchik claimed as part of his sprawling legal motion that "Judge Ryan was quoted on this particular subject in the East Valley Tribune in direct opposition to the Maricopa County Attorney's comments."

The motion included a slew of allegations, leading with accusations that the judge deliberately was circumventing Prop 100, and that he had wrongly dismissed cases against criminal defendants.

Ryan also was accused of having humiliated two prosecutors in court memoranda, causing them great personal distress.

Wilenchik wrote that "hyperbolic, scathing, and blistering" court orders filed by Ryan about two prosecutors proved how ill fit the judge was to sit on cases involving the county attorney.

That Dennis Wilenchik — long known in the courthouse as a lawyer who defines hyperbolic, scathing, and blistering — would use that language to describe Ryan brought a chuckle to those in the legal community who know him.

Ryan set a hearing on the issue for the morning of October 2, a day after Wilenchik filed his papers.

Wilenchik set the tone by quickly telling Judge Ryan, "We want to give you the opportunity on behalf of the public safety and welfare to do the right thing and recuse yourself."

"Doing the right thing. I don't understand what you mean by that, counsel," the judge responded.

Ryan repeatedly asked Wilenchik to explain the specifics of his alleged "bias and prejudice" against prosecutors, which is mandatory in all such recusal hearings.

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9 comments
Thomas Trottier
Thomas Trottier

Elizabeth Cottor is a Snake as you can tell by her evil scowl and Shark like facial features. My son was prosecuted by her and she would not so much as even let him speak. If only he could explain at 17 what he had done when he was 16. But since he was prosecuted as an adult, and at that age the court system seems very intimidating, but a fair trial would have saved him 2 years of his life. For an auto accident where a unlicensed drug-taking uninsured driver was actually at fault. Her ethics are indeed tainted by her association with Andrew Thomas and his bottom feeder ethics. I am glad that she will never see her dream of becoming a Judge come true, I prayed faithfully for God to stop her. Prayer works!

Alanis
Alanis

Here's some irony for you. Dennis Wilenchik is going to teach other lawyers about ethics!

check it out.

http://www.nbi-sems.com/seminf...

anon
anon

That's what many lawyers / judges do to deceive the public. Wolves in sheeps' clothing.

JA Moran
JA Moran

maricopa county, and the state of Arizona need political and justice officials that will seek to be "reasonable and fair" that is true justice. Don't use one's position to try and squash your political opponents. The Maricopa County Attorney and Sheriff use any opportunity to get their face infront of a camera and make their point. They should stick to doing their jobs, be "reasonable and be fair", not going after people who disagree with them. We are supposed to be a democracy and in a democratic society people should be free to voice their disagreements. Also you should be free to publish the truth as the facts support, not as some political officials want. Do I need to remind people what happened to the guy who played "Joe Arizona" in political ads and what another person named Joe did to him because he made this other "Joe" look bad ??

J.

Leonard Clark
Leonard Clark

Please, if you feel that these two fascist thugs should be stopped legally, constitutionally and non-violently help us with the recall. We have filed official recall papers and even after the deadline is over for this recallif we are not successful the first time we are going to hound these two criminal and unconstitutional thugs with another legal and constitutional recall.

Please, help us and help Arizona, we are not associated with any politician or political group we are only associated with the U.S. Constitution.Leonard Clark623-206-2039 email: leonardclark385@hotmail.com arizonarecall.comChair of the Arizonans for the U.S. Constitution and recall of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas

TreasurerWilliam Crum602-300-8851

Annalisa Alvrus
Annalisa Alvrus

So, judges are NOT political? Judges NEVER make the wrong decisions? Judges NEVER make rulings based on political or personal biases? Judges ALWAYS make rulings pursuant to the law? Should we not expect all three branches of government to constantly check the other branches? Isn't that what our government is supposed to be doing? I usually really, really like Paul Rubin's articles, but I don't care for the pro-judiciary slant in this article. The judges are placed on the bench by the governor, and even though we "vote" to "retain" them, we get very little information about whether they really rule according to the law. And the judicial oversight commission mentioned in the article almost NEVER disciplines a superior court judge. Are all 95+ of them really such perfect employees of the citizenry? Seems awfully hard to believe.

anon
anon

AA, Well said! Definitely agree with you. Look at the Bios of these judges on the Court roster -- wonder what the qualifications are to even be a judge, many of the resumes are slim to none.

Tony Dogs
Tony Dogs

They really need to disbar this clown. He's a disgrace.

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

Arpaio and Thomas, Reincarnated Hitler's.Scary.....

 
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