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Jail Lawsuit Lawyers at Odds: Chief Deputy Orders Sheriff's Office to Sever Joint Defense

With so much county news going on, we had temporarily overlooked this fascinating tidbit:

Dave Hendershott

Thomas Irvine, the lawyer hired by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to help backhoe the rift between top county leaders, has been appointed as co-counsel to assist in the county's defense of a major lawsuit on jail conditions. 

(A ruling has been issued in the lawsuit, Graves vs. Arpaio, but there are still some odds and ends to settle).

Irvine has some experience in jail matters, according to his bio, having served on the Maricopa Citizens' Jail Oversight Committee from 2005 to 2008, and the Citizens Committee on Jail Planning from 1997 to 1998.

The news about Irvine comes from Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott, at the bottom of a recent memo to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Debra Hill, the attorney for the inmates suing the county, says she wasn't aware of the change in attorneys.

However, "I'd be thrilled if Tom Irvine became co-counsel," Hill says.

No wonder: In the ongoing county civil war, Irvine is firmly planted on the side opposite the sheriff's office, which runs the jail system.

In fact, Irvine would be co-counsel with no less a defender of Arpaio's than Dennis Wilenchik, the same dude who got fired by County Attorney Andrew Thomas following the 2007 debacle with New Times.

If you'll recall, Thomas threw Wilenchik under the bus after deputies arrested New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. (Hendershott, by the way, claims to have ordered the arrests). Despite Thomas' opinion of Wilenchik, Arpaio likes to keep the feisty barrister at work on sheriff's office lawsuits. Hendershott, playing Nostradamus in his memo, brags that the appointment of Irvine "was anticipated." He tells Arpaio he's ordered the severing of the joint defense of the lawsuit "due to our conflict issues with Irvine."

There's that funny "C" word again.

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Talk about conflicts: Hendershott admits in the memo he's investigating County Manager David Smith and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson, the people he must deal with on budget issues, for unspecified criminal violations.

That, along with the prosecution of County Supervisor Don Stapley, seems like the underlying conflict leading to all this other conflict.


ALSO IN TODAY'S VALLEY FEVER BLOG: Attorney Debra Hill says lawyers for the inmates seek $1.4 million in fees as the sheriff's office begins to improve jail conditions.

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