Maricopa County Craziness

Ex-Prosecutor Lisa Aubuchon Can't Have Law License Back, Arizona Supreme Court Says

Lisa Aubuchon, the ethics-bending ex-prosecutor who filed bogus criminal charges against a judge, has lost her appeal with the state Supreme Court to get her law license back.

Aubuchon and her former boss, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, were disbarred last year for abusing law-enforcement procedures in their fight against county enemies with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The ex-lawyer, who lives in Tempe, has been paying a steep financial price for her bad actions -- and it could grow much steeper.

See also: - Andrew Thomas and Aubuchon Slapped by Ninth Circuit; No Immunity in Stapley Suit - Andrew Thomas, Aubuchon Want Terry Goddard's Testimony Tossed in Stapley Suit

Aubuchon ran a private practice for a while after being fired from the county in late 2010, representing clients including Jeffrey Hendershott, the son of one of Aubuchon's compadres in the county fight, Arpaio's former chief deputy, Dave Hendershott. She told New Times after her April 2012 disbarment that she'd been forced to cash out her retirement, resulting in a tax burden for her and her husband, Peter Pestalozzi.

As we reported in November, Aubuchon, Hendershott and their lawyer, Ed Moriarity, were ordered to pay a $210,000 sanction for bringing a frivolous lawsuit against their county foes. They're still fighting that one.

Now that Aubuchon's appeal is done, State Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil will begin determining how much she'll pay to reimburse the state for the cost of the investigation and hearings, says State Bar of Arizona spokesman Rick DeBruhl.

DeBruhl was not able to find out immediately how long that process would take. He adds that O'Neil will also begin figuring out how much Alexander and Thomas should pay, too.

Alexander's disciplinary punishment of suspension of her law license for six months and a day was upheld by the state Supreme Court in May. The court, however, removed the extra day from the punishment, making it easier for Alexander to re-obtain her Arizona law license if she chooses to do so.

Last year, the State Bar announced that Thomas could be saddled with as much as $554,000 in reimbursement costs. We have no idea what Thomas, who's running for governor, does for money these days. His books aren't selling that well and the Selous Foundation probably doesn't pay him much, if anything, for his scholarly, right-wing articles.

Aubuchon doesn't even have a sub-par book-writing career like Thomas to fall back on, and she's not staying in the public eye like Alexander, a right-wing blogger.

But she has no one but herself to blame for her predicament, according to the 19-page opinion by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Of all the allegations against Aubuchon, the five-judge panel wrote, the most egregious have to do with her "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice" and her filing of bogus criminal charges against retired Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.

The "conduct prejudicial" part manifested itself in several ways.

The evidence proved that Aubuchon knew, for example, that a one-year statute of limitations had expired when she filed charges in November of 2008 against former County Supervisor Don Stapley for failing to disclose financial information. Aubuchon was well aware that Thomas suck-up Mark Goldman, a lawyer who current County Attorney Bill Montgomery likes, had been digging up dirt on Stapley in early 2007.

Bad conduct was also seen in the way Aubuchon went after judges who didn't make decisions she liked, intimidating them with motions demanding to know their thought processes.

When it came to the flagrant foul against Judge Donahoe, Aubuchon really should have known better, the judges wrote. Clearly, the probable cause statement supporting the allegation of bribery and other charges don't link to any elements of actual crimes, the opinion states. No investigation had been conducted -- the "crimes" were based on a judicial complaint that Hendershott had filed against Donahoe previously. Other staff members with the sheriff's and county attorney's offices complained that no probable cause existed. Yet Aubuchon rammed it through anyway. (The charges were later dropped.) The court writes:

"She was an experienced prosecutor who had supervised charging decisions for five years at the time she filed the complaint. Although she undoubtedly knew how to support a complaint with an adequate probable cause statement, she blatantly failed to do so."

Aubuchon apparently still feels she's done nothing wrong. As the judges wrote, Aubuchon has "has steadfastly maintained that Judge Donahoe's conduct evidenced criminal wrongdoing."

They go on to say, "She might have subjectively suspected as much and hoped to discover confirming evidence before the court ruled on probable cause. But Aubuchon's responsibility as a prosecutor was to ensure probable cause existed when she filed the charges. This she did not do..."

Click here to read the entire opinion denying the disbarment appeal of Lisa Aubuchon.

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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.