Augustus Shaw IV, a Republican candidate for state representative in Tempe's District 17, has been disciplined twice by the State Bar and was scolded by a judge in 2006 for his aggressive tactics as an HOA lawyer.
The case, easily findable with a Google search for Shaw's name, spurred a Maricopa Superior Court judge to write in a minute entry that Shaw's actions were an example of "abusive litigation practices run amok."
After the brutal, March 9, 2006, minute entry by Judge Peter Swann excorciating Shaw for trying to collect thousands of dollars he didn't deserve, the Arizona Republic fired Shaw from a gig writing columns about homeowner-association issues.
The minute entry also spurred the Bar to punish Shaw with a year's probation and mandatory ethics classes.
Shaw, who was recently endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio (why doesn't this surprise us?), admits begrudgingly that he's become the blogosphere's "poster boy for evil in the HOA industry."
The title seems well deserved, if based on the 2006 case.
According to the minute entry and a May 24, 2006, Republic article about the case, Glendale resident and state worker Stacy Mobbs owed her HOA, the North Canyon Ranch Owners Association, about $343 in fees, plus another thousand for late fees and legal bills. When she wouldn't pay up, Shaw -- the HOA's attorney -- played hardball.
Shaw filed a lien against Mobbs' home in Superior Court, stating that if she didn't pay $1,479.68, the HOA would foreclose her property.
The 2006 Republic article by Michael Kiefer states that Mobbs brought a cashier's check for the amount and obtained a receipt showing her balance had been paid in full. Shaw returned the check, telling Mobbs she owed more. A lot more.
Now Shaw demanded $6,000 in attorney fees alone, Swann's minute entry states.
At about the same time, Shaw sent an e-mail to Mobbs threatening her with court action if she tried to contact the HOA board of directors without first going through him.
"I HAVE WARNED YOU TIME AND TIME AGAIN NOT TO CONTACT" the board, Shaw's nasty-gram begins.
Mobbs filed a complaint against Shaw with the State Bar.
That prompted a "demand" by Shaw to drop the complaint, states Judge Swann's minute entry.
Egregiously, the demand was accompanied by an offer to settle the case for just $2,000, which Swann noted was still "more than 400% of the amount actually owed."
"The use of a threat of continued litigation in an attempt to dispense with possible disciplinary proceeding is highly inappropriate," Swann wrote.
Swann didn't fail to notice that Shaw had made the demand for the $6,000 even after being told there was no likelihood of attorney's fees being paid in the case. (Mobbs was ultimately ordered by Swann to pay her bill and reasonable late fees).
Swann went on to call Shaw's e-mail to Mobbs "abusive" and unprofessional.
"When a lawyer communicates in such fashion while representing a client in connection with a judicial proceeding, the profession as a whole suffers, and mounting public criticism of lawyers is more difficult to defend," Swann wrote.
Shaw, 37, contends that he was a "young attorney" at the time -- like this happened back in the 70s or something -- and claims to have to learned from his mistake.
But he also says the Bar investigation and criticism of him that followed on the Internet was rooted in racism. His evidence? People who commented on blog posts about the incident targeted him with racial slurs. "I'm not going on the record to call anyone racist," Shaw says. "I'm going to say I personally felt the people around Miss Mobbs, people pushing this issue, were pushing it solely based on race. I felt if I was an attorney of another color, this issue would not have risen to where it did. When a black man asserts a dominant position, that's seen as being threatening."
As a conservative Republican, he goes on, he would normally be the last one to pull the race card.
"But in this unique situation, I believed it played a central role in the bar complaint and the fervor that it was prosecuted on," he says.
We asked Shaw yesterday if the State Bar had punished him for anything else. Shaw answered that out of nine complaints filed against him with the Bar, he'd only been disciplined once.
But this morning, the State Bar told New Times that it placed an order of informal reprimand in his file in 2008 because of another problem.
Asked about that today, Shaw confesses that the 2008 discipline must have slipped his mind.
We encouraged Shaw to explain what happened, causing the candidate to come down with a classic case of "passing the buck."
According to him, the Bar's action was nothing but "BS."
"I don't even feel that thing's valid," he spews. "It wasn't me who did it. I wasn't the one who did the bad act."
A junior associate at Shaw's firm helping Shaw to collect a judgment award from someone they were suing accidently sent the person a bill that was 12 times higher than it should have been. Whoops.
The person (and the person's attorney) caught the mistake, which was corrected, and later filed the Bar complaint. The junior associate resigned because of the incident, Shaw says.
Read the Bar's reprimand letter by clicking here -- we think you'll agree it makes the incident sound worse than Shaw's version).
So, to recap, Shaw:
*Used the legal process as a "weapon" (in Judge Swann's words) to make money.
*Writes nasty demand letters to the people he's suing.
*Has convenient memory lapses.
*Throws blame around like a kid throwing sand at the park.
and let's not forget
*Cries racism as a half-assed cover for problems he caused.
Except for the part about crying racism, he's not too different from more than a few Phoenix-area lawyers.
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But unlike most lawyers, Shaw has thrust himself into the political arena to take his lumps. And he knows none of this reflects well on him.
Referring to this article, Shaw says, with a touch of glee, "I'm happy this is coming out in June rather than in October."
UPDATE: Complaint alleges Shaw doesn't really live in District 17.