Pugnacious PHX barrister Dennis Wilenchik...
Someone slipped me the video of the courtroom donnybrook that broke out yesterday between Superior Court Judge Timothy Ryan and demon law dawg Dennis Wilenchik, who came off looking like he eats bowls of rusty railroad nails for breakfast. I'm working on getting some clips from this video up in the next couple of hours, but I thought you might like a little blow by blow of this at times hi-larious match-up.
As locals likely know from Paul Rubin's cover-story "Below the Belt," wherein he details how Wilenchik went after Sheriff Joe Arpaio foe Dan Saban during Saban's unsuccessful suit against Arpaio, Wilenchik's a private attorney who makes bank off representing his buddy County Attorney Candy Thomas in court and Thomas' ally-in-darkness Sheriff Joe. Wilenchik was before Judge Ryan yesterday asking Ryan to recuse himself from the County Attorney's cases before the court. Candy says Ryan's biased in these Prop 100 cases that deny bail to those who've committed a Class 4 felony or above and are believed to be in the country illegally.
Ryan was restraining himself, but you could almost see his inner self longing to leap up off that bench and throttle Dennis the Menace. Wilenchik started off by telling Ryan why he wanted the judge to take a powder.
"We want to give you the opportunity on behalf of the public safety and welfare to do the right thing and recuse yourself," Wilenchik offered.
"Doing the right thing?" the elegantly coiffed Ryan replied with arched eyebrow. "I don't know what you mean by that counsel?"
Ryan immediately lept into Wilenchik's motion, in which The Wily One cited six cases that he said proved his contention Ryan was biased. Ryan began going through them one by one, asking Wily Coyote about specifics of the cases at hand, apparently to prove Wilenchick was off his game. Wilenchik kept interrrupting Ryan, attempting to point out he (Wilenchik) didn't need to know the details of the cases. Ryan grew more and more annoyed each time W. tried to talk over him.
"Mr. Wilenchik, this is a court," Ryan reminded him. "I need some answers to make the record clear, OK?"
"Your honor," Wilenchik responded. "I don't have all the answers of the specifics on each and every one of these cases today."
This continued, back and forth, with W. trying to interrupt Ryan. Ryan then admonished the attorney:
"Mr. Wilenchik, I'm going to warn you one last time. Please don't do this. Let me just ask some questions. Let me have some clarifications and once we're done with that, then we can have you make additional statements that you think...need to be made, OK?"
Ryan continued through each case, asking W. questions, while W. stood there like a naughty schoolboy admitting that Rover didn't really eat his homework. Eventually, Ryan stated, "I'm going to decline your request for voluntary recusal." He gave W. until 5 p.m. today to file a "motion for change of judge with cause." W. seemed to want an out-of-county judge, and Ryan was astonished at that.
Wilenchik eventually regrouped and fired back at the justice:
"I want to make it clear on the record that this motion was brought as far as the County Attorney's office is concerned...for the purposes of protection [of] what we perceive to be a danger to public safety that's going on. We take that seriously."
Ryan jumped in, "Mr Wilenchik, that's a horrible overstatement."
Wilenchik: "Your honor, I'd like to finish."
Ryan: "Well, you don't get to make aspersions and insults to the court, with all due respect, which is flatly what that is. So if you're going to continue that, then you're done."
Ryan continued, "Mr. Wilenchik, everyone has to follow the rules. Even you. Even Mr. Thomas."
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Ryan went on to lecture W. on the duties, ethics and professionalism of a lawyer. But Wilenchik retorted that similar rules of ethics apply to judges. He also accused Ryan of "bias and prejudice."
Interesting power play on the County Attorney and Wilenchik's part. Considering Ryan's status in Superior Court, it was almost like W. and Candy were telling the whole Maricopa County Superior Court where to go. Ballsy move, or wackety-wack, depending on your P.O.V.
Anyway, we'll get the video up as soon as we can. This stuff's better than the Thrilla in Manilla.
PS: Sorry, got delayed by the PHX PD press conference on the Gotbaum case. For fans of legal drama, the video shld. be up tomorry.