Legal Ethics

Hundreds of Lawyers Rally to Protest County Atty in Sheriff’s Battle Against Judiciary

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More than 250 lawyers and activists gathered on the steps of a Phoenix courthouse on Monday to protest legal actions against Maricopa County officials and local judges.

Lawyers made speeches and, in something akin to a “Kumbaya” moment, recited their lawyer oath made upon admission to the state bar, the Phoenix New Times reports. They shouted the third stanza: “I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding that shall appear to me to be without merit or to be unjust.”

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas are garnering criticism after filing a racketeering suit accusing the county board of supervisors and at least four judges of corruption in connection with the construction of a $340 million court office tower. They have also filed bribery charges against Judge Gary Donahoe that appear to be largely based on his rulings on court matters he is overseeing.

Defense lawyer John Curry called the legal actions an “attack on the independent judiciary,” the Arizona Republic reports. “Without an independent judiciary, there is no rule of law.”

The rally was held on the same day that the Arizona Republic published a letter by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who had handled the criminal investigations regarding the county board of supervisors for Arpaio. She returned the cases to Arpaio after six months, with the exception of some pending appeals.

“My brief involvement has led me to conclude that what is transpiring now in Maricopa County is wrong and a disservice to the citizens of our state,” she wrote.

“I was happy to remove myself from the cases and from contact with Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” she wrote. “My discomfort grew daily and my role in restraining potential abuses of power increasingly more difficult. It was a relief to package up the files and return them to Maricopa County.”

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Updated to clarify that much of the protest, according to news reports, was aimed at the county attorney.

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