Doubting Thomas: Court Appoints Special Investigator To Look Into Alleged Unethical Conduct of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas

Where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is widely criticized for abuses in office, many of those abuses (including investigating judges who stand up to Arpaio) are only possible with the help of his enabler Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Now, Thomas appears to finally be facing a professional review. The Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court has ordered a special investigator to look into his alleged unethical conduct.

Thomas is being investigated for abuse of power, including the criminal cases against two county supervisors and a sitting Superior Court judge, here. Those prosecutions were undermined when an out-of-county judge ruled that Thomas had acted unethically in his prosecution of Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. Pima County Judge John Leonardo ruled that Thomas prosecuted Wilcox for political reasons and sheer retaliation. He is appealing that ruling.

The Bar has also tried to move against Thomas who is viewed by many attorneys as a scandal. He is, in my view, the Mike Nifong of Arizona.

Thomas has faced 13 earlier complaints with the Bar.

The Bar jumped at the opportunity created in the Leonardo ruling to finally force a serious review of Thomas’ controversial tenure. John Phelps, State Bar CEO, wrote to the Chief Justice that “Judge Leonardo’s findings implicate potential violations of the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct (by Thomas). Consistent with the State Bar’s responsibilities to investigate and when appropriate prosecute violations of the rules, we are prepared to take immediate and deliberate action by commencing an investigation into Mr. Thomas’ actions as described in Judge Leonardo’s ruling.” He cited a potential conflict in the bar doing the investigation since one of its board members, Phoenix attorney Ed Novak, is a defendant in a federal racketeering suit filed by Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

J. Scott Rhodes will now serve as independent State Bar counsel. He has an impressive background for the task:

Mr. Rhodes is Jennings, Strouss & Salmon’s Managing Attorney and also serves as a member of the firm’s three-person Management Committee. Mr. Rhodes previously served as General Counsel to the firm.

Mr. Rhodes maintains an active practice focused on legal ethics and the law of lawyering, including attorneys’ fees disputes. He also practices in the areas of energy and utilities law, local government law, and professional corporate governance and structure.

Mr. Rhodes has an extensive background in legal ethics and is a published writer on the topic. Because of his excellent reputation and capabilities, in 2009 Mr. Rhodes was appointed by the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona to serve as a Member of its Attorney Discipline Task Force. His role as part of this committee is to review and amend the discipline system that governs all lawyers in Arizona. He is also Chair of the State Bar of Arizona’s Rules of Professional Conduct Committee. Because of Mr. Rhodes’ reputation and capabilities as a professional responsibility lawyer, Jennings Strouss & Salmon is ranked #1 in the US in Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law by The Best Lawyers in America® 2010.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Rhodes served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Robert Corcoran and the Honorable Charles E. Jones, Arizona Supreme Court, in 1995-1996. Before embarking on his legal career, Mr. Rhodes operated his own business in Paris for nine years.

Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Jones will serve as “probable-cause panelist” to review the findings of the independent counsel and determine whether the Bar should take further action.

For the full story, click here.

16 thoughts on “Doubting Thomas: Court Appoints Special Investigator To Look Into Alleged Unethical Conduct of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas”

  1. LEO

    I’m quite serious indeed. Not tongue in cheek at all. One of these guys is going to be the GOP nominee and I most definitely don’t want to see Hayworth get any more publicity for his extremist views than he has and will during the primary. As I said, I believe a Dem has a better chance against McCain. If I’m wrong and the Republican nominee wins in this pretty conservative state, I’d still rather have McCain as my Senator than Hayworth. Hayworth is just frightening!

  2. So let me get this right: “Thomas has faced 13 earlier complaints with the Bar. **** The Bar jumped at the opportunity created in the Leonardo ruling to finally force a serious review of Thomas’ controversial tenure.”

    13 Bar investigations, but this will be the first serious review? I guess that is why Mr. Thomas was exonerated in the first 13 matters.

  3. rc,

    As a Republican, I will not vote for either McCain or Hayworth and I suggest that you do not change your Party affiliation, which I assume was tongue-in-cheek musing anyway.

  4. rcampbell,
    If it takes getting Thomas in order to get Arpaio, I am all for it. Former Fed put it well when he said it should be about ethics and morals and not politics. That being said, I can see the dilemma you have with the Teabaggers in your state. It is kind of scary to think that McCain is the lesser of two evils!

  5. I am pleased to see the terms “professional conduct” (codes of), “professional responsibility”, “legal ethics” et cetera, brought to the forefront. Even the brightest legal minds—as those in any profession—are subject to corrupt acts. The presence of Codes of Conduct/Ethics and adherence to professional responsibility standards that are *enforced* should give pause to any person with a conscience to stop and think before acting unethically, unprofessionally, or illegally.

    County Attorney Thomas will have a chance to present his rebuttal of charges against him and perhaps he has not substantively violated any professional legal standards; however, this should be a reminder to all in the Arizona legal profession that the AZ Supreme Court will not tolerate unprofessional/unethical attorneys regardless of one’s position in the legal hierarchy.

  6. raff

    Those two thugs are attached at the hip. Many of us Arizonans are pleased Thomas may finally get his. If they get him, Arpaio won’t be far behind.

    I’m seriously considering re-registering as a Republican to vote in the AZ GOP primary. I’d rather see that crazy coot, McCain, nominated than the teabagger, JD Hayworth. Hayworth thinks Joe Arpaio and Thomas are too soft on immigration. This is a pretty conservative state, but I think a Dem might have a better chance against McCain. A Hayworth nomination would bring the cockroaches out from under rocks and floor boards.

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