Business of Law

Ogletree Deakins Sues Client Entity, Maricopa County, for Defamation


A well-known labor and employment law firm has filed suit against Maricopa County, Ariz., seeking damages for claimed defamatory statements made in a letter from county officials terminating its services.

It “contained false and defamatory statements including, among other things, accusing Ogletree of unethical and possibly criminal conduct and of acting in an unreasonable manner,” contends Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart in the complaint (PDF) the law firm filed yesterday in Maricopa County District Court.

The suit also alleges, on information and belief, that the county republished the termination letter to a broader circle than those who needed to see it and “intentionally leak[ed] misstatements and half-truths to the media for the purpose of impugning the integrity and business practices of Ogletree.”

Among other relief, the complaint seeks damages for alleged defamation per se which, if proven, would entitle the law firm to compensation for injury to its professional reputation without showing actual out-of-pocket loss in the same amount.

As an Arizona Republic article notes, the lawsuit follows a hard-fought political battle between county’s board of supervisors and the county sheriff and county attorney’s office.

Former County Attorney Andrew Thomas is currently facing a legal ethics trial, and ethics complaints have also been made against others, including a couple of Ogletree lawyers.

The county, which has been arguing with the law firm about Ogletree’s unpaid bills, declined the Republic’s request for comment on the defamation suit.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Fireworks Expected: Maricopa Board Axes Ogletree Deakins, Law Firm for Sheriff Arpaio”

ABAJournal.com: “Maricopa County to Sue Ogletree re Legal Services Provided to Sheriff Joe Arpaio & Others”

ABAJournal.com: “Ogletree Fights Demand for Bill Copies to Audit Legal Work Law Firm Did for Maricopa County Attorney”

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