Maricopa County Craziness

Thomas Loses Lawsuit Vs. County; Power Play Legal Because Thomas "Has Not Complied" With Obligations, Judge Says

Just looked at the minute entry for a major ruling in one of the bigger lawsuits between Maricopa County leadership and the county attorney -- and boy-howdy, what an ass-whuppin' on Andrew Thomas. The suit was filed by Thomas after the Board of Supervisors took away his ability to handle civil lawsuits and set up a new department to handle the cases.

Judge Donald Daughton, who wouldn't allow Thomas block the new department's funding in March,

ruled that Thomas "has not complied" with his professional obligations to deal with conflicts of interest between himself and his clients. Daughton writes,

It is the contention of the County Attorney that it is he who determines if there is a conflict in any given situation and if he determines that there is a conflict it is he who selects counsel for his client the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. There is no support for the contention under Rule 42 Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona.


Judgment for the Board of Supervisors. However, the Supervisors need to "bear in mind," says the judge, that Thomas' office will become fully functional again if Thomas begins dealing with conflicts like he's supposed to.

Daughton also bowls over Thomas' contention that he has to comply with the county's new rules for filing requests for public records. The new rules are reasonable and since Thomas hasn't even tried to comply -- case dismissed.

(Note on the county's new rules for public records request, which apparently affects county employees only: In our humble, non-lawyerly opinion, it has some troubling implications for the state's open records law. However, the intent of the public records request by Thomas' office -- not to mention some of the intra-county requests by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office -- has never been clear. Lawyers typically use the legal process of discovery to obtain documents. This looked like abuse of a good law for the sake of harassment).

Thomas will probably embark on an appeal, all at taxpayer expense. Or maybe he'll follow the judge's instructions to comply with his obligations. Either way, he's on the ropes with this one.

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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.