Tom Horne Denied Extra-Long Court Filing in Federal Medical Marijuana Lawsuit
Tom Horne, Arizona Attorney General, says if Arizona US Attorney Dennis Burke wants to give comfort to state workers adminstering the medical marijuana program, he should put it in writing.
Give me the short version, a federal judge told Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne today in a ruling on the state's lawsuit against medical marijuana.
Yesterday, Horne had asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton if he could exceed the 17-page limit for his arguments on why the lawsuit shouldn't be dismissed. He even included the proposed response in a separate, 23-page filing. (See below). The extra pages were needed, Horne wrote in the request, "to thoroughly and accurate address each claim" being made in the defendants' motion to dismiss.
But Bolton, as strict as any editor we've had, denied the request. We can sympathize, finding the old maxim true that it's often tougher to write something short and concise.
Skimming through Horne's proposed response, though, we noticed a couple of things that should actually be added.
For instance, in giving the run-down on how Arizona officials ended up suing their own state instead of defending a voter-approve state law, there's no mention of the January meeting between Horne and the law's most vocal opponent, Carolyn Short of Keep AZ Drug Free.
We also think Horne's proposed motion should have mentioned that Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke reminded the public, through a reporter, that his May 2 letter to the state about the new law didn't threaten state workers with prosecution.
"It's fair to read into my letter what I included and what I didn't,'' Burke told reporter Howie Fischer. "And if I didn't include state employees, I think that's telling in itself.'
Burke's point was that it was disingenuous for the state to now claim the state workers faced a risk of prosecution.
Horne tells us that maybe his revised motion will include that quote from Burke -- because it may help his side.
"It sounds like he left it out for the reason that he wanted to leave open the possibility for prosecuting state employees," Horne says.
Judging from the context of Fischer's story, Burke meant it the other way. After all, he told the Arizona Republic that, ""We have no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law ... but at the same time, they can't be under the impression that they have immunity, amnesty or safe haven."
But Horne's got a point: Burke could have been more specific in his letter about the lack of a risk to state workers.
We e-mailed Burke today to ask whether he felt his verbal statements had less legal weight than his letter.
Horne says, and it's hard to disagree, that it's always better to get something in writing.
But in this case, it's simply hard to imagine that Burke would prosecute state Department of Health Services Director Will Humble or his employees after stating explicitly that he has no intention of going after them for implementing the law. And even if the Obama Administration gets voted out next year and Dennis Burke gets replaced with an anti-pot crusader, it's unrealistic to think the new regime wouldn't give the state fair warning to stop administering the program.
Horne won't give in when we ask to him if he honestly believes the feds would prosecute Humble or his underlings, stating that he's seen the federal government do some "outrageous" things. (We reminded him that the same could be said for state government.)
In any case, Horne says the next motion he files will be probably be better because it's shorter.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.