Maricopa County Craziness

Disciplining Andrew Thomas and Others Cost State Bar a Total of $616,571

The State Bar of Arizona spent $616,571 for the disciplinary proceedings related to former Maricopa County Andrew Thomas' unethical acts.

Rick DeBruhl, spokesman for the lawyers' organization, says the State Bar came up with the final bill total today. As our previous story today on the topic of Thomas relates, Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon, and Rachel Alexander have agreed on a restitution repayment amount of $101,294 of the total.

See also: - Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon, and Rachel Alexander Ordered to Pay Back Discipline Costs

The latest number shows how much the proceedings actually cost -- and how little of it the punished lawyers are asked to pay. Not that slapping them with a bigger bill would have made a difference: We assume Thomas and Aubuchon, having been stripped of their law licenses, have no intention of paying their fair share of the $101,294, and would find it difficult if not impossible to do so if they did want to pay it.

But there's a valid reason why the State Bar is letting the trio off with a fraction of the total costs.

The $616,571 bill includes payment to John Gleason, the Colorado attorney who "prosecuted" the Bar case before a three-member panel that included the state's Disciplinary Judge, William O'Neil.

Gleason charged the Bar a discounted fee for his time, but it still added up. And being from out-of-state, Gleason incurred plenty of expenses for travel and other costs. He stayed at the Arizona Biltmore each night he was in town, though at a heavily discounted rate of $89 a night.

Had the proceedings been handled all "in-house," the bill -- and, therefore, the restitution amount for the unethical prosecutors -- would have been much lower. The Bar told the Arizona Supreme Court it would have been "perfectly capable" of handling the proceedings in-house but that it might be better to seek outside counsel to avoid the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch initially picked a local attorney, J. Scott Rhodes, to do the honors. But Thomas' defense team balked because Rhodes had once donated $390 to the campaign of Thomas' opponent in the race for county attorney. That's when Gleason was called in.

DeBruhl says the bill was paid by the State Bar, vis-a-vis its members' dues. Active lawyers in Arizona pay $460 a year in dues. (The Bar's considering raising thd fee in 2014, much to the ire some of the state's lawyers, it should be noted.)

Still, it's clear that Thomas, Aubuchon, and Alexander could have been stuck with a much higher bill.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.