Constitutional Law

Maricopa Paid Former Ariz Judge $100K to Settle Claim re Ex-County Attorney, Sheriff Arpaio

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In the first settlement of some $125 million in claims made by Maricopa County, Ariz., officials who say they suffered damages because of alleged off-the-rails prosecution and litigation by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the county has agreed to pay $100,000 to a retired judge.

Former Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields had initially sought $1.75 million in a defamation and abuse of process claim contending that the two retaliated against him for adverse rulings by naming him as a defendant in a civil racketeering case, the Arizona Republic reports.

An apparent confidentiality provision precluded comment by Fields and his attorney. However, county records confirm the settlement, the newspaper says, and a private practitioner who is overseeing alternative dispute resolution for Maricopa notes that the settlement is minor relative to the amount sought..

“It’s a very small amount of money … it was a fraction of the cost of defense,” said attorney Steve LaMar, noting that the county has been “reaching out, trying to settle some of the lawsuits that we thought we could for a small amount of money early on, and to save an amount of money. It’s case-by-case.”

At last report, Andrew Thomas, the former county county attorney, was facing a legal ethics trial after an out-of-state lawyer brought in by the state supreme court to investigate him recommended that he be disbarred.

Associated Press and Arizona Republic articles earlier this month detail the status of the case against Thomas and two former deputy county attorneys. A trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 12.

Additional and related coverage:

ABA Journal (April 2010): “The Maricopa Courthouse War”

ABA Journal (April 2010): “Claim of a Federal Corruption Investigation Backfires” (Jan. 2010): “Ariz. Judges Defending Controversial Civil RICO Case Seemingly Win a Round” (April 2010): “Controversial Maricopa Co. Attorney Resigns to Run for Ariz. AG” (June 2010): “Maricopa Board to Hire Uber-Arbitrator for Claims Against Sheriff, Ex-County Attorney” (Dec. 2010): “Three Current and Former Judges Sue Maricopa County Attorney and Sheriff Joe Arpaio”

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