Dennis the Menace

Arpaio's lawyer can't explain away his fudged résumé

In a recent court proceeding involving the West Valley View, Judge Margaret Downie told Wilenchik, "Quit interrupting me," and later, "Stop — you're annoying me."

"It's rare that a judge puts up her hand and tells you to shut up," says Dan Barr, the newspaper's attorney.

More than one critic calls Wilenchik the schoolyard bully.

One of two known pictures of Dennis Wilenchik
courtesy of the Arizona Republic
One of two known pictures of Dennis Wilenchik
The other picture is of an oil painting of Wilenchik.
The other picture is of an oil painting of Wilenchik.

"Dennis can't help himself," says a Phoenix attorney who asked to remain nameless. "He had this nice little practice going with the mold cases and construction defect cases, but then he struck it rich with Andy Thomas and Joe, and he just got a little too public, and he picked the wrong targets to attack. Dennis has always reminded me of a 6- or 7-year-old kid, who was well brought up by his parents and knows how to behave and be nice, but really would rather be like the kid on Leave It to Beaver, the neighbor kid [Eddie Haskell] who likes being on the edge of trouble all the time."

If you're a homebuilder with moldy houses, Dennis Wilenchik may well be your dream lawyer. But is this the kind of person who should be representing taxpayers?

That's not all there is to Dennis Wilenchik. He's a family man, married forever (by today's standards) to Becky Bartness, his legal partner and mother of their almost-grown kids. She has a reputation as a good lawyer and a kind soul. They belong to the Phoenix Country Club and live in a very nice $2.3 million home, on a tasteful street in Paradise Valley. While it's always referred to grandly as the "Wilenchik & Bartness Building," Wilenchik's office, on Third Street near Osborn, is downright low-key, with brown bars on the windows and a worn, personalized doormat.

People love to dislike Dennis Wilenchik, but the guy's not completely friendless. Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods actually describes his good friend as even-tempered. The two have known each other for a long time; Woods and Wilenchik's wife met in law school at Arizona State University.

Woods says he's surprised at Wilenchik's reputation as a hothead, and by some of his higher-profile recent actions. He won't defend Wilenchik's recent attacks on the judiciary and continued efforts to discredit Dan Saban, saying just that his friend was acting at the behest of his clients. And the New Times case?

"That's a little inexplicable," Woods says. "The case was ludicrous on its face so I don't understand why anyone spent five minutes on it. There's lots of crime out there. There's plenty to do."

But on a personal level, Woods defends Wilenchik completely.

"I know he's a very decent guy," Woods says. "He's very well-intentioned. He tries to do the right thing."

It's clear that Wilenchik had certain intentions when he put together his biography for the Wilenchik & Bartness Web site.

To wit, from the site:

• Wilenchik says he had "a judicial clerkship at the Supreme Court of Arizona in 1977."

But Cari Gerchik, public information officer for the Arizona Supreme Court (that's actually the court's correct title), says there is no evidence that Wilenchik has ever worked for the court.

She writes, "You asked me to ascertain for which Arizona Supreme Court Justice Mr. Wilenchik clerked in 1977 (as it is listed on his Web site) and the answer is that while we maintain records of who clerked for the Justices during 1977 (and even earlier) we can find no record of Mr. Wilenchik having served as a judicial law clerk in that or any other year."

By e-mail, Wilenchik responds that he worked for Sarah Grant, who at the time was the senior staff attorney for the Arizona Supreme Court.

"I performed a six month intern-clerkship for the ct working under sarah grant who was then chief staff atty, and not for any specific judge, which is why i noted it as i did," he writes.

It is true that Wilenchik does not specify a justice in his biography. But it's also true that when you say you had a judicial clerkship at the Arizona Supreme Court, it's understood that you clerked for a Supreme Court justice.

Gerchik called Grant, who now sits on the Arizona Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court's official response: "Sarah Grant told me that Mr. Wilenchik was never her judicial law clerk, but that he may have done a short internship for the Staff Attorneys Office.

"The Staff Attorneys Office does hire interns, but these interns are not, and never have been, considered judicial law clerks.

"Then and now, the only way to clerk for or have a judicial clerkship with the Arizona Supreme Court is to be formally hired by a specific Arizona Supreme Court Justice."

• Wilenchik says he was a "judicial assistant/commissioner for the Presiding Criminal Judge of Maricopa County."

That judge was Stanley Goodfarb, who confirms that Wilenchik worked for him — but as his bailiff.

"He was my bailiff," says Goodfarb, now retired. (Goodfarb served as the discovery master in Saban vs. Arpaio, thanks to Wilenchik.)

So Wilenchik definitely wasn't a commissioner, or a judicial assistant?

"No," Goodfarb says, patiently. "He was my bailiff."

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POOR JOURNALISM AT ITS BEST! You guys are used as examples in University Journalism Schools on poor ethics and faulty fact checking... if you are not careful about speaking ill about attorneys you could just as well be sued yourself! Oh wait, you have. Next time spend a bit more time on making one's articles well-rounded and a bit less biased... but then again this is a free paper with advertisements of escorts on the back pages. They might be the only one's funding the paper itself. Much luck to those trying to make their way here by hurting those who have hurt their boss... it might help in getting a raise! Much luck to your future.

veronica browner
veronica browner

I appreciated the article I thought it was well done. But, I am a bailiff. I did not and do not appreciate the term lowly in your article at all. I never thought of myself as lowly because I AM a bailiff. Lowly??? what the heck does that mean? I am right there with you with every word in the article. But please take care not to belittle those of us who hold the position of bailiff. Sure,he did at one point bailiff. But, the rest of us are needed and work hard.

Please take care in the future to respect everyone's job.


Keep up the good work and stay on these dirtbags next year. If you do a really good job on them, we can run Dennis Willenupchuck out of town in addition to Candy and Joke! If any of the 3 happened to end up wearing stripes and pinks in Tent City, that would be a big bonus.


You guys did it again! keep digging for the truth in 2008 as always, and don't let Arpaio or Thomas go in 2008 until they're behind bars where they belong.

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

What tangled webs we weave.Keep on their asses and keep showing the true colors of Arpaio & Thomas to the public.Maricopa County needs to send them both packing in 2008.

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