Andrew Thomas Caused a "Cancer" on Our Justice System with His "Appearance of Impropriety" in Cases Against Supervisors and a Judge

A stunning declaration filed in county court on Tuesday by one of the nation's preeminent legal-ethics attorneys says County Attorney Andrew Thomas continues to take the law into his own self-serving hands and should be stopped.

Philadelphia lawyer Lawrence J. Fox wrote to Cochise County Superior Court Judge Wallace Hoggatt on behalf of several Maricopa County criminal-defense lawyers.

Earlier, the attorneys asked Hoggatt to bar Thomas' office from continuing to prosecute their clients because of alleged "conflicts of interest" created by the ongoing prosecutions of two county supervisors and a Superior Court judge. (Hoggatt, who works out of Bisbee, is hearing the matter because it involves Maricopa County judges.)

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas
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Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas

Fox, a partner in the 700-lawyer firm of Drinker Biddle and Reath, is a renowned scholar in the legal-ethics field. He lectures on the subject at both Harvard and Yale law schools and has written almost 100 articles on the topic and several chapters in books.

He wrote to Judge Hoggatt that "there is nothing wrong, and there could be everything right, in a county attorney prosecuting public officials, including judges, for their alleged wrongdoing."

However, Fox says Andy Thomas' ongoing prosecutions against supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley and against presiding criminal Judge Gary Donahoe "clearly provide the impression of being motivated by improper purposes and they certainly create the appearance of impropriety."

Fox writes that the highly charged situation in Maricopa County is "unprecedented" in his experience:

"Having sought to skip the scales of justice by placing the heavy thumb of judicial prosecution, threatened prosecutions, and unwarranted extra-judicial statements to gain an out-of-the-courtroom prosecution advantage, that thumb must be removed the only way it can be."

No, not by literally hacking off one of Andrew Thomas' thumbs and calling things square, though that might be a viable option for some.

Fox asks Judge Hoggatt to disqualify Thomas and his deputy county attorneys "from any further criminal prosecutions in the county," specifically any capital cases.

He also suggests that the judge is obliged to report Thomas to the State Bar of Arizona for possible disciplinary sanctions.

Citing various legal reasons, Hoggatt ruled on Tuesday, February 23, against most of the non-capital defendants who were part of the global motion to disqualify Thomas and his office from prosecuting them.

However, in so doing, the judge noted that the defendants "have presented an image of the Maricopa County Attorney as an out-of-control political prosecutor who engages in grotesque abuses of power."

Hoggatt said that may or may not be true but noted that because county prosecutors have not disputed the allegations, he is left "with no alternative" but to accept the defendants' image of Thomas.

Attorney Fox's opinion still may be front and center for the remaining dozen or so defendants in the disqualification case, almost all of whom are eligible for the death penalty.

Fox points out that almost all the death penalty-eligible defendants represented by one of Maricopa County's public-defender agencies — agencies that, he says, are "totally dependent on the Board [of Supervisors] for their jobs, their salaries, their promotions, their working conditions."

(Fox's theory that the Board of Supervisors is directly responsible for the promotions and working conditions of those who toil for the county's criminal-defense agencies probably would come as a surprise to those employees, who have little or no contact with the executive branch.)

Fox writes that Andrew Thomas and a committee of prosecutors on his staff decide which accused murderers may face death sentences and which ones won't, which presents a problem in the county's current poisonous political climate:

"The very same prosecutor who is making these life-and-death decisions is prosecuting two [county supervisors] for a broad range of racketeering charges of the most serious nature, prosecutions that appear to be part of a wholesale assault on all who cross the county attorney."

Fox writes that the "appearance of impropriety [in Thomas' decision-making] renders the result a cancer on our system of justice."

Andrew Thomas "cannot have it both ways," Fox contends. "If he wants to go into the judge-prosecution business, his office and he must recuse themselves or, failing that, be disqualified from appearing before any judge the office charges or threatens to charge. If he wants to appear in criminal courts before these judges prosecuting other criminal defendants, he must neither threaten nor prosecute any judges.

"To do both simultaneously corrupts our system of justice and introduces into such proceedings influences that are just as sinister as if the judges involved were being bribed with improper payments."

Fox, who once chaired the American Bar Association's committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, claims Thomas has "demonstrated a disdain for legal process, refused to accept the authority of the courts, and taken the administration of justice in Maricopa County into his own hands."

In doing so, Fox says, Thomas has violated several rules of ethical behavior spelled out by the State Bar of Arizona.

"Here," he writes, "the court is presented with one of the most important legal officials in the state, blessed with awesome power, a leading officer of the court.

"Yet in his reckless attempt to achieve what I am sure he would characterize as justice and bringing the miscreants to account, Mr. Thomas has forgotten that the ends (no matter how noble) can never justify the means, has created conflicts for his own office and the entire bench, has demonstrated no respect for the law or our sacred legal institutions, has created in the public's eyes a caricature of what our system of justice should be."

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The Arizona Bar, LOL....they are a total joke. Don't look to them for any action against Thomas. It will never happen, not from them anyway. 90% of the time, they are too busy looking the other way and protecting their own. They talk a great story but that's as far as it will go when it comes to Thomas.

Former Republican
Former Republican

Where's the Arizona Bar?

Their silence in allowing Thomas to continue to abuse his power, along with attorneys and judges that enable him would seem they are complicit in all this destruction to the Justice system.

It's time to disbar Andrew Thomas for starters!

Former Republican 2
Former Republican 2

Mr. Ruben, An outstanding article that has been lost in the shuffle of the tornado that hit Thomas in the past few days. Your title says it all!


Having been persecuted by Thomas and his side kick Arpaio despite the fact the all the evidence was in my favor..I can tell you first hand how oppressive both emotionally and economically it is to fight a case when the County Attorney has unlimited resourses and no consequences to face for wrongly oppressing an individual.The most dangerous criminal is one that carries a badge or can hide behind their office and is not held accountable.after all these years of the horror that Thomas and Arpsio has wrought on this county..will this finally be the las straw that makes all good citizens wake up and remove these guys from office...once the people that are responsible for protecting our rights violate those same rights they become dangerous


Thomas should be disbarred. Period.

And he wants to be Attorney General ?? Give me a break!

Justice Seeker
Justice Seeker

This article is outstanding, Mr. Rubin!! The truth shines brilliantly through all the distractions in the Maricopa County legal circus Thomas has thrown his wrecking ball into.

The public needs to be made aware of what preeminent legal-ethics attorney, Lawrence J. Fox had to say. As in the Duke LaCrosse players case, DA Nifong was disbarred and convicted. Thomas should have met the same fate years ago. Lawrence Fox certainly laid it out for the AZ Bar to take action! What more damage has to be done before they step in?

Can you please post a link to his stunning "declaration" in this blog?


I have to wonder if Mr. Fox is aware of the depth of corruption of both Andy Thomas and Joe Arpaio. Mr. Fox wrote eloquently and knowingly about Mr. Thomas based on the information provided.

Just imagine what he would write if he was provided all the information about the MCSO shurf.

Andy Thomas may be corrupt, but he's just a small piece of the corruption in Maricopa County, and it doesn't include the judges or the Maricopa Supervisors.

I found it interesting to read this article late in the same day when the visiting judge said very much the same thing about Andy Thomas. With two learned and knowledgeable practitioners of law having said, thus in agreement, nearly the same words about him, I can't imagine how he might attempt to skew those words or spin guilt back to them.

I can only hope that Andy Thomas really does make good on his plan to resign to run for state attorney general.

It looks like the MCSO shurf isn't going to leave without being indicted and lead out of his office in handcuffs. With Hendy in tow, it should be quite a parade to watch.

I can only hope to be in town so I can be a first hand witness.

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