Andrew Thomas Wants Attorneys' Fees From New Times Over Newspaper's Lawsuit Against County

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas seeks to have an amended lawsuit by New Times against the county dismissed and force the newspaper to pay attorneys' fees.

New Times sued the county earlier this year following the arrest of its founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey (pictured left and right above), in October 2007 on trumped-up charges. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton threw out the part of the lawsuit that relates to Thomas individually, but allowed New Times to continue seeking legal redress against the county with an amended complaint.

Thomas' office doesn't like the amended complaint any better, calling it "frivolous" and asking Bolton to dismiss it.

In the county's motion, Thomas wants to make New Times pay "attorney's fees and costs" for having to respond to the complaint.

"When pigs fly," Lacey comments after hearing of Thomas' request to the court.

New Times' attorney in the case, Michael Manning, says Bolton ruled previously that Thomas could not be sued at the state or federal levels because he has immunity as county attorney for certain actions under the law. Although she dismissed the federal portion of the New Times lawsuit, the newspaper's amended complaint still tries to press federal claims against the county. "But it doesn't rely soley on Thomas' conduct," Manning says. "It looks at the conduct of other county actors."

Bolton's next decision may favor New Times no better than the last. As Lacey pointed out in a blog article last month, she unsuccessfully sued New Times over an article in the paper before becoming a judge and has "scant regard for the First Amendment and the rights of a free press." -- Ray Stern