This just in: Attorney J. Scott Rhodes is part of the conspiracy to deprive Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas of his law license!
We're kidding -- but only kind of. The real scoop is that Rhodes, an attorney at Jennings Strouss, has agreed to serve as independent counsel on complaints that the State Bar of Arizona has received regarding Thomas.
Rhodes' role in the case will be roughly akin to that of a prosecutor in normal legal procedures -- assessing whether there's been evidence that Thomas violated ethical rules, and (if so) bringing a case against him. That's the same role played last year by former Judge Rebecca Albrecht, brought in to examine complaints that Thomas acted unethically by appointing a special prosecutor on the New Times case.
But considering that Thomas' office has filed a wide-reaching --and ultimately, spectacularly silly -- racketeering lawsuit against a host of county officials and judges, charging that they're part of a criminal enterprise trying to deprive him of his license to practice law, we can assume it's only a matter of time before J. Scott Rhodes is somehow added to the enemies list.
All joking aside, Rhodes was selected by the Arizona Supreme Court for this oh-so-joyous task. Rick DeBruhl, the Bar's spokesman, tells us that the Bar had asked the Supreme Court whether it should recuse itself on any investigation into Thomas.
There's precedent here, since the Bar did in fact recuse itself on previous investigations after Thomas' lawyers claimed it had a conflict. Plus, Ed Novak, one of the private attorneys sued by Thomas' office as part of that silly racketeering suit has been the Bar's past president. He's currently on its board of governors, although he doesn't vote.
So the Bar offered to hire someone independent, and the court agreed, choosing Rhodes for the job, DeBruhl explains. The court also selected its former chief justice, Charles E. Jones, to serve as probable-cause panelist on the case, which means he'll have a role akin to a judge in deciding what evidence Rhodes can collect.
Rhodes' resume, at least, appears impressive. A Yalie who got his law degree at ASU, he serves as one of Jennings Strouss' managing members -- and specializes in legal ethics. To Thomas, who's already been tarred by his colleagues as unethical, that may spell serious trouble.
Still, we wouldn't wish this task on our worst enemy. J. Scott Rhodes, you have our very deepest sympathies. We might also recommend consulting a very good defense lawyer -- just in case.