Dennis the Menace

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

J.W. Brown, public information officer for the Maricopa County Superior Court, says that at the time, there was no such title as "judicial assistant." (That is a title that was created much later in order to pay secretaries more money.)

Wilenchik writes that, to his recollection, "the clerk then to the presiding criminal judge who handled post conviction relief matters also had commissioner status when dealing with post conviction relief issues which i dealt with for the judge."

He continues, "I was of course not appointed officially as a court commissioner as i had not even passed the bar then, nor have i attempted to convey that i was. That is why i noted it as part of the bailiff job as a judicial assistant-commissioner because it was not a typical bailiff type responsibility."

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.

But that is not how Wilenchik noted it. The term bailiff is not used in his biography.

"There's no hybrid position in the court," Brown says. "You're either a commissioner or you're a bailiff. And the qualifications are not interchangeable. They are very distinct and unique to the position."

According to the county's official job description, a bailiff coordinates courtroom proceedings and performs legal and clerical duties, including ordering and preparing files, reviewing motions and being responsible for jurors.

The minimum education requirement for a bailiff is a high school diploma or a GED.

A commissioner is actually a judge pro tem, with many of the responsibilities afforded to a Superior Court judge, including the power to rule on motions, assist with cases/hearings, including in juvenile court and justice court, and even preside over some matters in trial court.

The process to become a commissioner is rigorous, Brown says. A law degree is required.

Given that Wilenchik actually did serve four years as a judge pro tem (he was appointed in 1988; Gerchick's records confirm it), it's hard to understand why he would bother to stretch the truth, vis à vis the bailiff position.

• Wilenchik says he was a deputy county attorney. That is true. He also says he was "selected for the Special Operations Division specializing in white collar crime matters when he left the office in 1980 to enter private practice."

True, technically. But why mention the special operations division (it was actually called the Special Operations Bureau) at all, when you never worked a day there?

"Funny you ask that," says Rodger Golston, a Valley lawyer who was the chief deputy county attorney at the time. Of Wilenchik, he confirms: "He was picked for the special operations bureau. He was recommended by another lawyer . . . But he never worked in it. He never had a case there and never did anything with that unit."

In answer to the question, "Did you work a day in the Special Operations Bureau?", Wilenchik e-mails, "I resigned shortly after being appointed and assigned thereto to enter private practice. That is exactly what i indicated."

Dennis Wilenchik and Bill French met during Wilenchik's tenure as a deputy county attorney. French was presiding criminal judge, and the two served on a committee together, French recalls.

Did Wilenchik make an impression?

"Dennis will make an impression any time. He's very vocal," French says. A few years later, when Wilenchik was in charge of litigation for a local firm, he asked French to handle a case. French stayed for several years, and that's when he served as special prosecutor in the Mecham impeachment.

Oddly, French did not choose his longtime associate for his team, something insiders say has always rubbed Wilenchik the wrong way. French is characteristically polite — obviously not wanting to offend Wilenchik — when asked about that.

"I pretty much selected the people I wanted to work with," he says. "I had worked with a couple of very bright associates and a couple partners. I knew how they worked."

In any case, Wilenchik went on to find his niche, developing a practice that focuses mainly on construction defect defense law, representing home builders. Jim Eckley, a Phoenix attorney who represents plaintiffs in such cases, goes up against Wilenchik frequently — including several times in the last year. He speaks highly of his opponent. The two are not friends; Eckley only knows Wilenchik professionally.

"I found him a really tough advocate. When he gets on a case, it's gonna be a hard fight the whole way," Eckley says. "I have had people I've dealt with out there who are tough and useless . . . but he seems to really get into his cases well."

Eckley acknowledges that with Wilenchik, there are generally "a lot of nasty barbs tossed back and forth . . . but also I will say, some of those barbs get some mileage in a civil trial court. He's that kind of fighter on the defense side and it's tough to be on the defense side."

Outside a civil trial court, Wilenchik's barbs can deliver an unexpected sting. For years — even predating his representation of Arpaio — Wilenchik has lobbed bombs at reporters, hoping to dissuade them from writing about his clients.

And as Sheriff Joe's attorney, Wilenchik has further honed his media relations skills. One local journalist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of recrimination, remembers a call he received on a Saturday afternoon last year. The journalist had been researching what he describes as a fairly benign piece about corrections officers, and since he'd long had a good relationship with the Sheriff's Office, he called Captain Paul Chagolla, Arpaio's spokesman, to ask about pay rates.

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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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