State Bar of Arizona Dismisses Complaints Against County Attorney Andrew Thomas

Two State Bar complaints against Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas have been dismissed. Whether these are the last two complaints against Thomas, or how other complaints against any of his staff members may be doing -- well, we're just not sure.

But it seems like Thomas may be off the hook.

We called the Bar just before 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon after receiving a tip that the Bar's investigation of Thomas had been completed. The state agency in charge of regulating Arizona's legal professions didn't call back, but at 6:20 p.m. sent New Times this short e-mail:

Statement from John Phelps, CEO/Executive Director of the State Bar of Arizona:

The State Bar of Arizona is charged with investigating complaints filed against attorneys in the state. We had a duty and an obligation to investigate the two complaints regarding the Maricopa County Attorney that were the subject of a recently concluded State Bar investigation. That investigation, completed yesterday March 5, 2009, resulted in dismissal of both complaints.

The finality of the e-mail makes it seem like this is the end of the much-publicized complaints against Thomas, ending any chance that the county attorney would suffer the embarrassment of some kind of discipline by the Bar. Disbarment for the alleged offenses never seemed likely for Thomas, who easily beat his Democrat opponent in November's election.

The State Bar filed a total of 13 complaints against Andrew Thomas five of his prosecutors starting on October 23, 2007 related to his debacle with New Times and his office's criticism of the court's handling of a law denying bail to illegal immigrants.

The complaints became the source of even more clucking among judges and lawyers after Thomas, claiming he was being targeted by the Bar for his politics, asked the Arizona Supreme Court to stop the Bar's proceedings against him. The high court refused, but the Bar -- by then under the leadership of a new president -- turned the investigation of Thomas over to independent experts "to reduce the potential for complaints of conflict of interest."

And speaking of conflict of interest, we can't help but wonder if any new complaints have been filed against Thomas stemming from his prosecution of County Supervisor Don Stapley.

Politics, after all, is a bumpy road.

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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.