Feathered Bastard

Kris Kobach Kicked To the Curb by County Attorney Rick Romley

Nativist attorney Kris Kobach, the man who essentially wrote Arizona's new "papers, please" law and who had been retained by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to train his deputies on immigration matters to the tune of $300 per hour, has been cut loose by Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, albeit in a roundabout way. 

County Attorney spokesman Bill FitzGerald said that Romley, who was appointed to replace resigning CA Andrew Thomas in mid-April of this year, had a letter sent to outside law firms doing work for the MCAO on May 17, telling them their services were no longer required.

One of these was the Phoenix firm of Ogletree, Deakins. That's the firm that hired Kobach to advise Arpaio's boys in beige on immigration matters, as well as to advise the sheriff and the county on issues related to an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation into Arpaio regarding racial profiling allegations.

You can see a PDF of the letter, here.

FitzGerald told me the MCAO does have invoices from Ogletree, Deakins, but none relating to Kobach's work as of yet.

"We have lawyers that can deal in house with these issues," explained FitzGerald, "and don't need an expensive lawyer from Missouri."

According to internal county communications, Kobach, a law prof at the University of Missouri -- Kansas City and currently a candidate for Kansas Secretary of State, was specifically hired as an "immigration policy expert, in anticipation of litigation arising from or related to the U.S. Department of Justice police practices investigation."

Kobach's contract was for $300 per hour, with a retainer of $1,500 per month beginning in October 2009. He charged a $600 retainer fee for work already done, supposedly in September 2009. 

The contract made clear that the county was on the hook for any of Kobach's expenses, including, "costs of investigation, telephone expenses, postage, court costs, mileage, travel expenses, hotel costs, and any other necessary costs incurred or advanced...on behalf of client." (You can check out Kobach's contract and other related correspondence, here.)

Assuming Kobach gets his retainer for the month of May, he could have at least $12,600 coming to him from the county, plus expenses, plus travel. When I got the internal communications mentioned above through a public records request, he was already due the cost of a trip to Phoenix, likely to appear at an Arpaio press conference in early February.

When asked at that press conference who paid Kobach's fare, Arpaio shrugged, saying, "I don't know who paid his way here." In reality, the county will be be picking up the tab.

Kobach also works as counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the notorious nativist organization FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, tagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

FAIR and IRLI essentially drafted SB 1070, with Kobach playing pro-bono legal advisor to state Senator Russell Pearce, the primary sponsor of the legislation. These groups also stand to benefit from the law, as it allows Arizona residents to sue police departments and other agencies that do not enforce federal immigration statutes to the fullest extent permitted.

Might FAIR and IRLI step in and assist those willing to sue a law enforcement agency based on its perceived failure to enact SB 1070? Seems likely. FAIR and IRLI would then be policing the police. Even if they only won their legal fees in court, the power they would gain would be enormous.

As I've noted previously, the irony of Kobach teaching MCSO gendarmes the finer points of immigration law is colossal, to say the least.

Kobach is as anti-immigrant as they come. One reason he lost a 2004 bid for Congress, according to some political observers, was because, "in general, Kobach was accused of taking money from a white supremacist organization, and the charge stuck."

Indeed, when Kobach was hired by Arpaio earlier this year, Bill Straus, regional director of the Arizona ADL stated that, "It's difficult to interpret this as anything but an affront to the federal government, the community at large, and certainly the Hispanic community." 

In a recent comment to the Lawrence Journal World and News, Kobach made it sound like his dismissal had something to do with former County Attorney Andrew Thomas' bogus interpretation of Arizona's human smuggling law, and Rick Romley's reversal of Thomas' policy of prosecuting those being smuggled.

Romley "takes a very different view of enforcing Arizona's human smuggling [law]," huffed Kobach to the publication.

But neither Kobach's contract, nor the internal county e-mails and letters I obtained said anything about the human smuggling law. Nor was this how Arpaio and Kobach spun Kobach's involvement with the MCSO when it was announced in February.

Rather, Kobach was presented as the guy who was going to train all 881 MCSO deputies on immigration law. In fact, he ended up doing a training video for the MCSO on this very subject.

What else Kobach did -- or to be more precise, billed the county for -- may only be revealed when his invoices are made public.  

Addendum: To give you an idea of the exent of Kobach's nefarious involvement with SB 1070, here's an e-mail purportedly from Kobach to neo-Nazi hugger Russell Pearce on changes made to the law after it was passed. When I asked Kobach about it at the end of April, he would neither confirm nor deny the e-mail was his. 

From: Kobach, Kris W.

To: russellpearce ; [email protected] 

Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 7:42 PM 


I discussed all of the changes with Mike Hethmon** and he concurred. But there is one additional point that he suggested--which you will certainly agree with.

When we drop out "lawful contact" and replace it with "a stop, detention, or rest, in the enforcement a violation of any title or section of the Arizona code" we need to add "or any county or municipal ordinance." This will allow police to use violations of property codes (ie, cars on blocks in the yard) or rental codes (too many occupants of a rental accommodation) to initiate queries as well. 

I have not received anything from the people on the phone this afternoon. Please ensure that they make this addition as well.



**Note: Hethemon is the general counsel of IRLI, FAIR's legal arm.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons