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Lawsuits by County Officials Vs. County Move to Federal Court

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A $10 million lawsuit filed by Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley last Thursday against the county will likely end up in federal court.

Lawsuits alleging abuse of power, defamation, civil rights violations and other injustices by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas that were filed by Stapley's executive assistant, Susan Schuerman and Sandi Wilson, deputy county manager, and Judge Gary Donahoe were removed from Superior Court to U.S. District Court last week.

Millions of dollars in claims -- and now, lawsuits -- against the county were launched following a two-year attack by Arpaio, Thomas and their minions as part of a thoroughly discredited "anti-corruption" effort.

As readers of this blog know, efforts to prosecute Stapley, Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, Donahoe and investigate others for a poorly conceived conspiracy theory failed miserably, leaving the county and politicans like Arpaio and Thomas wide open to such claims.


Last month, three of the five county supervisors voted to approve a $10 million, three-year deal to hire several lawyers to defend the county against claims by county employees, former employees and elected officials. Stapley and Wilcox abstained from voting.

Plans to hire famed mediator Kenneth Feinberg to negotiate settlements fell through in October.

"The cases are going through the traditional court system," says Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for the county. 

Each lawyer the county hired in November is responsible for specific defendants. It's unclear to our simple brain which side benefits from the move to federal court, but it's the lawyers for the defendants pushing the issue.

Daryl Audilett has been Arpaio's assigned counsel in the cases since then, and he and the other hired guns filed motions to move the Shuerman, Wilson and Donahoe cases to federal court. The lawyer hired to represent the county as a whole, Steven LaMar, says he fully expects the new Stapley lawsuit to end up in front of a federal judge, too. (Which judge, though, isn't known yet, and the Shuerman, Wilson and Donahoe cases were all assigned to different judges.)

All of the lawsuits so far have alleged violations of both state and federal statutes.

"When there are federal claims asserted, it's pretty common practice to remove the claims to federal court," Audilett says.

Audilett, a Tucson lawyer, says one of his specialties for the past 25 years has been defending law enforcement officials. He said he wasn't sure if Arpaio had approved him. Calls to Lisa Allen, Arpaio's spokeswoman, weren't immediately returned.


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