Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Decisions, investigations, and lawsuits

It's early in the week, but it has already been an eventful week for legal issues in the Valley of the Sun. And not surprisingly, most of the issues involve Joe Arpaio.

- The same Arizona administrative law judge who found that State Rep. Doug Quelland should forfeit his office for Clean Elections violations found that the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce violated campaign laws with a series of ads during last year's municipal election season.

Certain members of the Scottsdale community (like the member who sits in the Mayor's seat during City Council meetings) will tout this as a victory against the influence of third-party money in local elections.

Any such claims are a lie. The decision is a victory only against third-party money that doesn't go in the mayor's direction. There are still plenty of "independent" committees working to buy Scottsdale's elections.

Most of them are dedicated to supporting Jim Lane and his coterie of followers or opposing Lane's adversaries.

- Maricopa County's resident would-be jerkwater despots, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas were slapped down in a judge's (Encanto JP C. Steven McMurry) ruling that they (actually, the County's taxpayers) have to pay the legal fees of people arrested at a meeting of the County Supervisors last December. The people were there to speak against Arpaio and his anti-immigrant policies.

Snippets from the judge's decision -
In the audio recording of Ms. Theilen immediately after she was arrested, one can hear her, between her sobs, describing, and the actions of the arresting officer, Deputy Acritelli, as those of a “fascist”.

This Court was so startled to read in its post-trial memorandum the County Attorney’s written description of the proceedings before the Board of Supervisors that it went back and reviewed anew all the recordings submitted in this action in their entirety. The Court now sadly concludes that Ms. Theilen’s description of the events is more balanced and objectively accurate than that of the County Attorney.

...Deputy Acritelli disrupted the meeting by moving through the audience, pointing at people who were sitting down with their hands in their laps, and insisting that they were being disorderly and had to leave. In virtually the same moment the arrests started. It is simply false to say that these arrests came after "repeated" warnings; they are surprising and disturbing arrests. The ironic moment then came when the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors called Kristy Theilen to the podium. One can hear Deputy Acritelli saying to Ms. Theilen "You're not speaking, you're leaving." Defendant Monica Sandschaeffer suffered the same fate when the Chairman called upon her...


...Moreover, it is important to note the message constantly being telegraphed by Deputy Acritelli by his words and manner at both the Supervisor's meeting and his courtroom appearance. Deputy Acritelli communicates that he believes that it is his role to make uncomfortable anyone who express views that disagree with the Sheriff. Were he to be candid, he would probably acknowledge being somewhat proud of it. (1)

[(1) =] On the stand Deputy Acritelli characterized the ruling of another judge who had dismissed similar charges a mistake, and insisted he would make the same arrests again if given the opportunity.


...The best basis for an award of the Defendants’ attorney’s fees, however, is probably the “private attorney general” doctrine recognized in Arnold v. Arizona Department of Health Services, 160 Ariz. 593, 609, 775 P.2d 521 (1989). This is such an extreme case, with Sheriff’s Deputies trampling on the First Amendment and being aided and abetted by the County Attorney. It has to stop.
That language, while dry and wordy, is pretty blunt for judge-speak. While Arpaio, Thomas, and most of the Republican blogosphere will denounce Judge McMurry as an "activist judge" or worse, McMurry (as well as most of the county's judges be they Dems or Reps) is a stickler for the law who wants nothing more than to maintain a low profile and do his job.

Today, his job has called for finding fault with the actions of Joe Arpaio, Andrew Thomas, and some of their subordinates.

...In the "OK, the timing of this probably isn't a coincidence" Department: Arpaio and Thomas have filed a federal lawsuit against a laundry list of county officials, judges, and attorneys accusing them of conspiring to hinder the Nativist Twins' investigations into various county officials, judges, and attorneys.

...One of Arpaio's subordinates, Adam Stoddard, has refused a judge's order to apologize for rifling through an attorney's briefcase and removing documents from it without permission.

Arpaio states that Stoddard will serve time in jail per the judge's contempt of court ruling, but refuses to state which Valley resort hotelcounty jail facility Stoddard will be held in.

Guess we'll have to wait for a full audit of MCSO's books to find out. Which should happen during the next millenium or so...

...Just an average couple of days in the three-ring circus known as "Maricopa County Politics."

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