Three disgraced, former Maricopa County Sheriff's Office leaders have lost their appeal of a failed lawsuit against officials including their former boss, Joe Arpaio.
Tuesday's 3-0 ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals rips the incompetent claims of David Hendershott, Larry Black, Joel Fox and their Montana lawyer, Ed Moriarity, who was disbarred last year in Arizona over a related case.
The group's 2012 lawsuit stemmed from the years-long feud between county officials that resulted in, among other things, the disbarment of ex-politician and former county attorney Andrew Thomas.
Hendershott, Arpaio's longtime right-hand man and chief deputy, was implicated along with key Arpaio aide, Larry Black, and Black's close friend, Captain Joel Fox, after an internal investigation showed they'd committed numerous policy violations and, in some cases, potential crimes.
From the trio's work on the shady "Sheriff's Command Association" (SCA) political slush fund to Hendershott's devious micro-managing -- with Andy Thomas -- of the ironically-named Maricopa Anti-Corruption Enforcement task force, the probe revealed that Arpaio's office was rotten at the top. Though Arpaio was likely knowledgeable of many of his aides' activities, the sheriff escaped scrutiny in the white-washed investigation and fired the three men as scapegoats. (The Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office later declined to press criminal charges against Arpaio or his underlings related to the abuse-of-power and SCA accusations.)
Hendershott, Black and Fox struck back in 2012 with a lawsuit against Arpaio, investigator Keith Sobraske, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, and Frank Munnell, the whistle-blowing Arpaio aide whose 63-page memo sparked the probe and eventual firings. The ex-employees alleged negligence, defamation and infliction of emotional distress over what had happened to them.
Early last year, they launched an appeal after their suit was tossed by Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson. The appeals court judges treated the lawsuit no better in this week's ruling, which is a long list of their complaint's technical failings. The specific claims of Hendershott, Black and Fox were weak from the start -- we won't get into them here, and the new ruling doesn't address them. Instead, the ruling points out the many cases in which the lawsuit fails to adhere to the normal rules of lawsuits.
For instance, the plaintiffs' complaint doesn't specify which defendant committed which alleged violation; contains "incomprehensible" arguments in places; is "rife with redundancy;" fails to state the date of an alleged defamation, making it impossible to determine if the claim is time-barred; claims "abuse of process" by the defendants, yet does "not identify any legal process that has been abused;" and so on. For anyone who's seen Moriarity in action, the technical failings identified by the appellate judges should come as no surprise.
New Times left message for Moriarity and Hendershott on Tuesday, but we haven't heard back yet.
Meantime, a few other things linked to this mess happened in 2014 that we'll catch you up on:
* Moriarity agreed to be disbarred in Arizona over his filing of a frivolous lawsuit on behalf of David Hendershott and disbarred ex-Thomas aide Lisa Aubuchon. As we reported in 2012, the lawsuit was so bad, Hendershott, Aubuchon and Moriarity are supposed to pay more than $200,000 in sanctions to the court and two wrongly accused lawyers from Polsinelli Shughart PC. Court records show it still hasn't been paid.
The Montana lawyer with the country-bumpkin accent, a former partner of famous civil-rights lawyer Gerry Spence, had represented Aubuchon during her disbarment proceedings -- and became the local legal community's butt of jokes due to his scatter-shot arguments and often-combative courtroom demeanor.
Last month, the Wyoming Supreme Court publicly censured Moriarity over the Aubuchon-Hendershott case, though the Wyoming State Bar decided after reviewing the facts in the case that disbarment wasn't warranted. While the Wyoming officials were considering Moriarity's case, Moriarity withdrew his Arizona consent to disbarment, according to a Wyoming news site article. Arizona Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil denied his request, and Moriarity's appealing to the Arizona Supreme Court.
* Lisa Aubuchon and cohort Rachel Alexander, who was suspended for her role in the bogus racketeering lawsuit filed against various county officials and lawyers, sued the county in an attempt to squeak out of a $101,294 repayment order by the State Bar of Arizona for the cost of disciplining them. That lawsuit is pending in federal court.
* Andrew Thomas, who owes the $101,294 "jointly and severally" with Aubuchon and Alexander, lost big-time in his bid to become Arizona's next governor. So did taxpayers -- who coughed up more than $750,000 in Clean Elections' cash for his bigoted TV commercials.
* In 2009, Joel Fox was willing to fall on his sword for Larry Black, his "love" -- until given the choice to reveal the names of Black and other SCA associates or pay a $315,000 fine. He chose to spill the beans, revealing that big-shots including developer Steve Ellman and Jimmy John's founder James Liautaud had pooled their money with Arpaio's top brass for an under-the-table, 2008 reelection project for Arpaio. Fox, a merit-protected employee, is still appealing his termination in court.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
* Sheriff Joe Arpaio overcame the scandal that led to Thomas' disbarment, although a three-member disciplinary panel likened their alliance to an "unholy collaboration." And he overcame a separate scandal related to his office's failure to investigate hundreds of sex crimes properly. He was reelected in 2012 to a sixth term and now, at age 82, has served about 22 years in office. Naturally, he's in the middle of another scandal -- the one related to the systemic discrimination of Hispanics that he led. U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow's threatening to hold the sheriff in contempt because of Arpaio's alleged failure to comply with a 2013 ruling that's designed to rehabilitate the agency.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.