Thomas vs. County Hearing a Bust -- Judge Wants to First Consider Motions to Dismiss Case

Hate to tease you like that, but a last-minute switcheroo in the courtroom today means that

the hearing on the case between Maricopa County Andrew Thomas and Maricopa County has been put off.

Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the two politicians who are suing the county -- didn't show up (they weren't legally required to), and the judge in the case realized he hadn't ruled on a motion to dismiss filed by the county.


Retired Judge Donald Daughton, who was assigned to preside over the case, continued the case to allow Thomas' attorneys to respond next week to the motion to dismiss. Daughton then re-scheduled the hearing for February 18 at 9:30 a.m., to be held at the same place -- the Old Courthouse building at 125 West Washington.

Daughton could dismiss the case next week based on the county's motion, which is based on an Arizona Supreme Court ruling that allows the county Board of Supervisors to hire its own attorney for civil matters in cases that involve a conflict of interest, said the county's lawyer in the case, Thomas Irvine.

To recap, this case began last month on the heels of the investigation of Don Stapley by the county attorney and sheriff. The Board of Supervisors, believing Stapley should not be prosecuted by the man who is essentially his own attorney in county matters, stripped Thomas of the ability to handle the county's civil cases, prompting Thomas (with Arpaio riding his coat-tails) to sue.

Irvine explained after canceled hearing that the county attorney's office has already conceded one part of the motion to dismiss, because the law is clear that the county can defend itself by hiring a lawyer in place of Thomas.

However, Thomas' side is presumably still arguing the conflict doesn't really exist. The legal nitty-gritty surrounding the claim of a conflict is what will be hashed out at the re-scheduled meeting.

In the meantime, it seems Arpaio is doing some of Thomas' dirty work -- trying to undermine county officials and the Board of Supervisors. If you didn't catch it, check out yesterday's post about the massive public records request Arpaio's office filed at the county.

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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.