Thursday, June 3, 2010

Way Over the Line

Every state has ethics rules for its attorneys. Attorneys can be barred from practicing law if they breach the ethics rules. There are special rules for prosecutors (which include County Attorneys). Here they are:

The very first rule is that a prosecutor must "refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause." This one is a whopper - very very important. Prosecutors have a great deal of power to disrupt people's lives. Being charged with a crime can ruin your professional reputation and the costs of defense can drain your life savings. This rule is specifically designed to ensure that prosecutors do not abuse their unique powers for reasons unrelated to the actual commission of a crime. Bringing criminal charges to intimidate or punish a political adversary is way outside the lines. This is not a gray area. Any prosecutor who uses his power to bully or intimidate his adversaries is unfit for office. It is that simple.

Another special rule for prosecutors is that the prosecutor will "except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused...'" In other words, the prosecutor should conduct himself honorably with respect for the legal process.

It is unquestionable that Mr. Thomas has violated these rules many times. He brought criminal charges for the sole purpose of intimidating others and he has carried on in the press like an annoying TV pundit. Just consider what happened to Judge Gary Danahoe, a well respected Superior Court Judge whose only "crimes' were rulings against the the County Attorney's Office is some criminal cases. Mr. Thomas unethically charged Superior Court Judge Donahoe with obstruction of justice, hindering prosecution, and bribery. Mr. Thomas has never been able to provide any facts supporting these charges. The charges are a sham and a shocking violation of a prosecutor's ethical duties.

It is astonishing to me that many people admire Mr. Thomas's actions. They view him as someone who backs down to noone and is shaking things up in the county bureaucracy. But Mr. Thomas is no hero of good government. He is a dangerous bully who is doing serious damage to individuals and our government. You know who else makes it a criminal offense for a judge to disagree with him? Hugo Chávez, the socialist President of Venezuela. See this recent article - the facts are chillingly similar to the Judge Gary Donahoe case.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Egregious Violation of the Ethics Rules"

Here is a complaint against Mr. Thomas filed with the State Bar of Arizona by the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ). I dont know a whole lot about this group other than it is comprised of over 400 defense attorneys in Arizona. I include the complaint because it provides a helpful summary of the damage that Mr. Thomas has done to Maricopa County government over the last few years. There is plenty of puplic record to support the facts in the AACJ complaint.

Here is another summary, this time from the American Bar Association.

Why should you care? Isn't this just lawyer on lawyer violence and aren't they all a bunch of scoundrels? Actually you should care. You should care because good public servants have suffered and paid a terrible price. You should care because Maricopa County has become dysfunctional at such a critical time. You should care because limited financial resources are being wasted at an alarming rate. Perhaps most of all, you should care because a prosecutor, with a sacred duty to uphold the law and promote justice, has threatened and intimidated judges who are supposed to make impartial decisions every day about people's lives.

You see Mr. Thomas has sued every member of the Maricopa County board (some of them more than once). He has sued 4 judges (1 of them more than once). Many of these lawsuits have been dismissed or thrown out and those remaining are a sham and will be dismissed. They serve no other purpose than to intimidate and cause harm to the defendants. They together paint a picture of outrageous abuse of power by an elected public official.

Why does he do it? What would cause Mr. Thomas to violate the public trust? As Mr. Thomas’ spokesman, Barnett Lotstein, said “This isn’t a personal thing with Thomas...This is like in The Godfather—this is business, not personal.” He does it because he can. He is a young man who is experiencing power for the first time in his life and he has become intoxicated with it. Well he has failed at his first big test in public life. He gets an F for integrity, an F for honesty and an F for responsibility. He has been a spectacular failure as Maricopa County Attorney.