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Andrew Thomas Spanked By Appeals Court

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That was fast.

Two days ago, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas fired off a Hail Mary to the Court of Appeals, complaining that superior court judges are biased against him and asking the higher court to intervene.

Today a three-justice appellate panel dismissed Thomas' petition for special action -- without even asking for a response from the other side, much less holding a hearing.

The two-page opinion, signed by Division One Appellate Justices Phillip Hall, Maurice Portley, and Michael J. Brown, gives no explanation for the super-speedy dismissal, saying only that the court "declines to accept jurisdiction." 

Thomas' petition, filed Tuesday, is the latest sign that the bumbling county attorney realizes his prosecution of County Supervisor Don Stapley isn't exactly going according to plan.

When Thomas' "anti-corruption task force" had Stapley indicted on 118 criminal counts for failing to disclose his land dealings on public disclosure forms, he surely expected to earn headlines for stopping white collar crime.

Instead, he's suffered one setback after another. First Anna Baca, then the presiding judge of the county's criminal division, appointed a retired judge to hear the case against Stapley. (Thomas thought the judge was biased against him.)

Then the supervisors acted to remove Thomas as their civil attorney, setting up a new civil division to provide legal advice. (Thomas claimed the supervisors were biased against him and then, bizarrely, filed a lawsuit against them.)

Finally, came the news that Thomas' own office had advised Stapley on how to disclose one of the land deals it later indicted him for not disclosing -- arguably a big enough conflict to bar the county attorney from continuing as the case's prosecutor.

Poor little Tommy Boy!

So Thomas asked the appeals court to assign an out-of-county judge to the Stapley case. He also asked the appeals court to reverse three key rulings:

* Judge Baca's March 18 ruling, which denied the prosecutor's attempt to get a hearing for a new judge,

*  Judge Baca's February 24 ruling, which set a hearing on a motion to disqualify Thomas' office from prosecuting the case, and

* Judge Gary Donahoe's February 26 order setting a hearing to discuss whether search warrants were properly executed on Stapley's one-time business partner Conley Wolfswinkel.

In the request for a special action, prosecutor Lisa Aubuchon argued that Judge Baca abused her discretion by suggesting that Stapley's lawyers attempt to remove Thomas from the case.

"The State is unaware of any published case in Arizona in which a prosecutor's office, which is necessarily adverse to all criminal defendants, has been removed from a criminal case for bias," Aubuchon sniffed.

Complaining about a supposed roster of procedural errors on the part of various Maricopa County Superior Court judges, Aubuchon wrote this dramatic plea for help:

It appears to the State that the criminal defense bar has concluded virtually any request made of the Superior Court that benefits the defendant will be granted or seriously entertained, even if such requests violate court rules, state statutes or binding case law. Faced with this apparently coordinated attempt by senior Maricopa County Superior Court officials to undermine the prosecution of [Stapley] and shut down related criminal investigations, the State has filed this special action.

Well. Now that the appellate court has rejected the special action, we can only assume Aubuchon and Thomas have added its justices onto the list of co-conspirators. In their world, they never screw things up -- it's always some evil lefty judge out to get them. (Cue evil laughter here.) 



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