Legal Ethics

Three Current and Former Judges Sue Maricopa County Attorney and Sheriff Joe Arpaio

A judge in Arizona’s Maricopa County and two former judges are claiming in lawsuits that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas abused their power by launching criminal investigations and filing meritless lawsuits against them.

One of the plaintiffs is Judge Gary Donahoe, who was presiding judge when Arpaio and Thomas accused him of bribery and corruption. Other plaintiffs are former judges Barbara Mundell and Anna Baca. The Arizona Republic has the story.

Donahoe claims in the suit that Thomas and Arpaio launched a criminal investigation into construction of a new criminal court tower that was in reality an assault on political enemies. Donahoe also alleges a false criminal complaint filed against him alleging bribery was designed to force him off cases involving Thomas and Arpaio. The criminal complaint was later voluntarily dismissed.

The defendants’ actions stem from disputes over power struggles and budget cuts, according to Donahoe’s suit (PDF posted by the Arizona Republic). The result was “a perfect storm of antipathy and contention between and among” county officials, Arpaio and Thomas, the suit says.

Donahoe’s suit alleges Arpaio “is not comfortable abiding by any rule of law that is not his own, or is not declared as his own in a press appearance.”

Mundell and Baca claim they were named in a “baseless” civil racketeering lawsuit, later dropped, in an effort to “intimidate, harass, discredit and humiliate” them. Donahoe, also named in the racketeering suit, says it was “ineptly drafted and largely incomprehensible.”

Each plaintiff has offered to settle for $4.75 million, the Arizona Republic story says. Two other county officials have also filed suit.

Thomas defended his actions. “Any attempt to settle these cases without giving Sheriff Arpaio and me the opportunity to defend ourselves and finally have a chance to question these individuals under oath would be a fraud on the taxpayers,” he told the Arizona Republic.

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “The Maricopa Courthouse War”

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