Dennis "Demon Dog" Wilenchik’s Day in Judge Ed Burke’s Court
The Wily One, minus his trademark granny-glasses.
Today I stared into the piercing pupils of PHX’s legal Demon Dog, the Bane of the Blackrobes, that Pugnacious Pit-Bull of Jurisprudence, Dennis, “the Menace” Wilenchik. And as Nietzsche once wrote of “the Abyss,” The Wily One stared back.
OK, that’s a little over-the-top. Basically, I caught up with the aggro esquire as he was exiting the Old Courthouse in Downtown PHX, following his appearance before Judge Edward Burke’s court in this 10.1 hearing where Wilenchik, on behalf of County Attorney Candy “Babyface” Thomas, was trying to get Judge Timothy “The Hair” Ryan removed as a judge in all of the C.A.’s cases. This, because Ryan is supposedly prejudiced against Thomas’ office. (Hey, I didn't know Thomas was black.)
When I asked Wilenchik about what AZ State Bar spokesperson Patricia Giallanza told me yesterday, that the Bar was investigating both Wilenchik and his boss Candy over possible ethics violations, he was nonplussed.
“Maybe you know something I don’t, but I’m not aware of that,” he clucked. “They shouldn’t be saying things like that to people. They’re violating their own rules, I think.”
Wilenchik said he hadn’t been notified of any investigation by the State Bar. “Certainly, you’re not supposed to be notified about it, let me put it that way,” he smiled. Queried as to whether he’d received a fair hearing before Burke, he shrugged, “I don’t know how to answer that, really.”
The Burke hearing lacked the pyrotechnics of Wilenchik’s initial appearance before Ryan on October 3, when Mr. Mold (Wilenchik used to specialize in toxic mold litigation) requested Ryan recuse himself on all of the County Attorney’s cases. Ryan declined. Eventually a 10.1 motion to remove Ryan for prejudice or bias ended up before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mundell. Wilenchik asked for an out-of-county judge to hear the case. Mundell shot that down, and the 10.1 was assigned to Judge Burke, who heard Wilenchik’s arguments and witnesses this a.m.
Technically, this 10.1 stuff is pretrial maneuvering in charges brought against defendant Ramon Perez-Ortiz, who’s charged with human smuggling. Ortiz is defended by Bob McWhirter, who wrote the book on immigration law – literally! The Criminal Lawyer's Guide to Immigration Law, 2nd ed., it's a smashing read. The morning began with McWhirter, whose fondness for a certain chapeau outside of court has him pegged in my book as “Fedora-boy,” insisting the court provide an interpreter for his client. Proceedings were delayed for 20 minutes while they hunted one down.
When things got under way, Wilenchik called two C.A. lawyers as witnesses: Elizabeth Cottor and Deborah Lee. Essentially, Wilenchik lead them through testimony intended to show that Judge Ryan had been biased and prejudiced toward them, and toward the MCAO’s office as a whole. Really, it was all about Ryan putting the smack down over issues like not showing up to hearings (in Cottor’s case), or not filing some motion on time (Lee).
Seems Cottor missed attending a settlement conference, so Ryan wrote up a stinging minute entry on Cottor’s absence. Well, as stinging as it gets within uber-polite court confines. Ryan’s entry demanded to know why Cottor “should not be held in contempt” or her case dismissed “based on the gross, wanton misconduct demonstrated by the State’s counsel.”
Cottor wished the judge had tried to phone her or one of her supervisors instead of being so mean in a minute entry. That’s what she would’ve done if roles were reversed. You know, a little courtesy call. Not write some nasty note that other legal beagles might see.
“In my opinion, he was not polite to me,” whined Cottor, who seemed to think it would hurt her chances of wearing the black robe herself someday.
What is this, Mrs. McGillicutty’s Charm School? What kind of shriveling petunias are these barristers anyway? Lee was apparently called on the shag for not filing some pretrial motion. As a result, Ryan stated that the C.A.’s office had “completely frustrated” the administration of justice.
“Do you take umbrage at that statement?” Wilenchik asked Lee.
Lee described it as unreasonable. Later she told Wilenchik she found it “unusual” that Ryan had done so much homework into her case, and gone into such depth. Someone in the peanut gallery snorted when Lee made her observation about Ryan’s due diligence.
With each witness, the kindly, baldpated Burke asked a few questions of his own, usually something about whether or not Ryan had been short with them elsewhere. While talking to Lee, Wilenchik began to object to the judge’s Qs, which Judge Burke batted away with a nearly sotto voce “Overrruled.” Burke then said something about just doing his job, to which Wilenchik snapped, “So am I.”
I wouldn’t say Wilenchik was well-liked by those in attendance. On the other hand, he didn’t seem heartbroken by the lack of love. Actually, if I had to guess, I’d say the dood revels in it.
McWhirter then made a final statement about how a motion to remove a judge “has to be specific to the case.” He also pointed out that a 10.1 has to be filed within 10 days, making Mr. Mold’s motion way-late.
After adjournment, McWhirter commented on the complaints of Cotter re: Ryan’s testy minute entry and Lee’s comment about Ryan going into depth on her case.
“That whole contention [that Ryan’s minute entry might hurt Cottor’s career] is just absurd,” Fedora-boy told me. “There are a thousand minute entries produced every day!”
As for Ryan doing his homework: “That just shows how conscientious Ryan is.”
Why are these esteemed jurists wasting so much time on this petty b.s.? It’s all about Prop 100, baby, and Thomas campaigning for reelection and eventually for Guv on the backs of judges who fail to deny bail to every brown person who walks into court. Thomas and his Demon Dog wanna wreck the judiciary, ‘cause intimidated judges mean more power for them. From a layman’s perspective, I can’t say I found Wilenchik’s case very compelling. The C.A.’s lawyers sounded like petulant pre-teens.
I’ll follow up with more on this as it develops. Till then, check out these previous Feathered Bastard reports on the same issue:
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.