Maricopa County Craziness

Joe Arpaio's Pricey Lawyers Have Billed County $122,000 -- and Counting -- on Records Case

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has spared no expense in his quest to read e-mails penned by court administrators -- filing a lawsuit, an appeal after he lost the lawsuit, and finally a special action after he lost the appeal.

But Arpaio isn't done yet, as county records make clear. Indeed, the wildly expensive D.C.-based lawyers that Arpaio hired to handle the special action now appear to be working on an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.


As we pointed out earlier this week, Arpaio has been joyously wasting our money in litigation aimed at forcing open e-mails from Superior Court staff, even though judge after judge has ruled that the documents in question don't fall under Arizona's public records law. Last summer, Arpaio even hired Carter G. Phillips, managing partner at Washington, D.C. firm Sidley Austin, at a rate of $990 per hour. (Even first-year associates at Phillips' firm are charging the county a staggering $280 an hour, according to documents we obtained.)

Naturally, Sidley Austin has been racking up the bills.

Records obtained by New Times yesterday show that Sidley Austin has submitted bills totalling $89,209 to date for work on the records dispute. The firm's local co-counsel, Sanders & Parks, has charged the county an additional $33,408.

And the bills are expected to grow: The most recent invoice was submitted just two months ago. Since the appellate court denied the special action back in September, that strongly suggests that these guys are preparing yet another appeal -- and intend to merrily bill us, the taxpayers, all along the way.

Interestingly, county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick tells us that while the bills from Sanders & Parks have been paid, the ones from Sidley Austin haven't.

"It is not clear whether they've been authorized," she says. "We're looking into it."


Apparently, much like the "celebrity prosecutors" that Arpaio's cohort, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, attempted to hire late last year, Sidley Austin isn't on the county's approved vendor list.

County staffers are now trying to unravel just who authorized the firm's hiring -- and, we have to imagine, why the hell that person thought $990 was a reasonable hourly fee for what amounts to a public-records dispute.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske