David Hendershott, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's former trusted chief deputy, and Lisa Aubuchon, the stooge of disbarred former County Attorney Andy Thomas, probably will pay a steep price for doing the bidding of their bosses.
A judge has ordered Hendershott, Aubuchon, her husband, their lawyer Ed Moriarity and his Montana law firm to pay at least $203,886 for filing a baseless lawsuit against county officials and lawyers, many of whom were wrongly accused of corruption by Arpaio and Thomas.
Even Bill Montgomery, the current County Attorney and a strong ally of Arpaio's, is taking a piece of Hendershott and Aubuchon's hide.
As we reported on Tuesday, the players in the lawsuit were in court this week for a final hearing on the subject of sanctions and attorneys' fees. The lawsuit itself was dismissed back in May by Superior Court Judge Sally Schneider Duncan, who found it worse than frivolous.
Hendershott and Aubuchon had filed their suit in August 2011 with the help of Moriarity, an off-beat Montana lawyer who defended Aubuchon for free during her failed attempt to keep her law license. Thomas and Aubuchon were disbarred in April for abusing their power along with Arpaio, who got off scot-free because he's not a lawyer.
The great irony here, of course, is that while the abuses can all be linked back to one man, Arpaio, the sheriff has just won election to a sixth term.
The squabble between Arpaio and Thomas on one side and the county officials, judges and lawyers on the other originated in a power-play in the mid-2000s.
Wielding their police and prosecutorial powers like schoolyard bullies, Hendershott and Aubuchon had a bogus criminal complaint filed against a judge and slapped the county with a conspiracy-theory-flavored federal racketeering statute. Hendershott apparently had his deputies spy on a judge and even reportedly had a plan to take over the county by indicting three of the five members of the Board of Supervisors, which could have put the county under receivership.
Local top-tier lawyers Ed Novak and Tom Irvine were smeared by the sheriff and county attorney. Irvine was accused of being at the center of a conspiracy to enrich himself while making sure judges were provided with a posh, new court building. Sarah Fenske, former Phoenix New Times writer and current editor of the L.A. Weekly, destroyed this conspiracy theory in a comprehensive 2010 article.
The law officials' unethical tactics failed in spectacular fashion. Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox escaped poorly conceived -- and, at least in the case of Wilcox, undeserved -- criminal charges. Arpaio and Thomas retracted their absurd federal RICO lawsuit, shamefully insulting the public's intelligence by calling the move a victory. Arpaio was forced to boot Hendershott from his job for a wide range of wrongdoing, including some related to his outrageous behavior in the fight against county officials. Aubuchon's career was destroyed, causing her and husband Peter Pestalozzi to get behind on more than $40,000 in federal taxes.
With Moriarity's help, Hendershott and Aubuchon struck back against their foes with the lawsuit. And failed again.
In a six-page ruling released this morning, Duncan slammed the plaintiffs and noted that she'd warned them of possible sanctions after they filed an "unintelligible complaint" in August followed by an "equally unintelligible" amended complaint.
Duncan notes that Rule 11 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure state that when an attorney signs a civil complaint, he or she agrees the lawsuit has some basis in fact and hasn't been filed to harass or drive up court costs for the defendant. Violations can bring sanctions and "double damages."
Despite her warning, Moriarity and his clients asked to be allowed to file another amended complaint on February 3 of this year. That caused the defendants to renew their request for sanctions and attorneys' fees, since they had to spend time and money working to fight the case. A hearing was held in May, during which the plaintiffs "persisted in their efforts to pursue groundless claims against Defendants," the latest ruling states.
Duncan held that sanctions and fees were appropriate in the case, and that they're to be borne jointly by the plaintiffs.
Polsinelli Shughart PC, the law firm of Irvine and Novak, incurred the most fees while battling the lawsuit by Hendershott and Aubuchon, and will get the biggest cut of the fees: $185,126.50 in attorneys' fees and $1,437.75 in costs.
Moriarity, Hendershott and Aubuchon must pay the Board of Supervisors' attorneys $17,322.
Maricopa County, as an entity, and County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who were also named defendants in the suit, requested attorneys' fees and have until December 7 to file a claim for the specific amount.
For good measure, Duncan ordered that the lawsuit is dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can't be re-filed.
But it's a safe bet that Moriarity, Hendershott and Aubuchon won't be in a suing mood for a while. They'll now have to decide themselves how to split their debt.
If they decide to appeal Duncan's decision, they'll likely be required to put up a bond for the amount of the judgment during the appeal and use their own assets as collateral.
It looks all but certain that Hendershott and Aubuchon will pay a large price, literally, for committing injustice in the name of the law.
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