Maricopa County Craziness

State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Officially Concludes for Andrew Thomas and Underlings; Decision Expected by March

The Arizona State Bar's disciplinary proceeding against former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and two of his former employees wrapped up today.

The three-man panel that oversaw the case is expected to make a decision on their findings -- and the punishment, if any -- by March.

Thomas and former deputy county attorney Lisa Aubuchon face potential disbarment in the case, which involved accusations of severe ethical violations in the attempted prosecutions of county leaders. Another former prosecutor who'd served under Thomas, conservative blogger Rachel Alexander, faces possible suspension of her law license.

The state Supreme Court's spokeswoman, Jennifer Liewer, released a schedule today that outlines how thing will proceed from here. We'll paraphrase:

 

The State Bar's independent counsel must file a written brief containing their "proposed conclusions and findings of fact," (their closing arguments, in other words), to the panel by Friday, Dec. 30.

The lawyers for Thomas and his former minions must then reply to that brief by by Friday, Jan. 16, 2012. The bar counsel then gets the last word, with a response that has to be filed by January 31.

Liewer's e-mail says the panel then has 30 days to file its findings. The State Bar's disciplinary judge, William O'Neil, "announced that he will reconvene the hearing panel when the order is complete. A 24 hour notice will be given to all parties, media and the public about the hearing. The panel will then announce their findings and the full written opinion will be released to the public."

As Liewer told us before, if the panel decides on a punishment like suspension or disbarment, it'll be an "order" and not just a recommendation. But the lawyers still have a right to appeal that order to the state Supreme Court.

After the high court weighs in, if it decides to, it'll be over -- but for the lawsuits.

Today, the last day of witness testimony, Rachel Alexander and Lisa Aubuchon were back on the stand. Judging from Arizona Republic reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez's frenzied tweets (while on vacation), the lawyers' previous testimony doesn't seem to have impressed the panel.

Lisa Aubuchon's dad also testified today. And guess what? He thinks his daughter's a good lawyer.

See the archived videos here.

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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.