Monday, December 28, 2009

Catching Up with Maricopa

Yet again I learn the lesson. Take your eyes off Maricopa County for a day or two to head off somewhere without decent internet access and you miss out on the latest.

Scott Greenfield wisely stayed home (or connected, which for our purposes is the same thing), so he saw that Nick Martin at Heat City . . . but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rebecca White Berch, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, looked down on Maricopa and saw that it was troubled water in the desert. And she cast about and found in her immediate predecessor, a High Priestess to calm the turbulence.

The unfortunate wretch is Ruth McGregor, recently retired (she wanted to spend more time with her family) Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. By Order of Chief Justice Berch, McGregor has been appointed Special Master
to oversee the administration of cases between or among the Office of the Maricopa County Attorney, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and the Superior Court in Maricopa County, or any members of the mentioned offices. The Special Master shall have the power to appoint judges to hear cases, motions, and preliminary matters, and to assign, reassign, expedite, or consolidate cases, or take such other actions as may be necessary or appropriate in these matters to ensure the swift, fair, and impartial administration of justice.
Lucky her.

Why is this necessary? In case you haven't been paying attention, Berch explained:
During the last several months, the Maricopa County Attorney has filed civil and criminal legal actions naming various current and retired superior court judges as defendants. In addition, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has taken control of a criminal justice computer system used to process thousands of court transactions each month, an action that is now the subject of litigation. Other cases have been filed as well and, according to public statements by the County Attorney, more are to come. In connection with these pending and impending cases, members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have conducted several interviews of superior court
employees, both at work and at their homes.

Because of allegations of conflict of interest contained in some of the lawsuits, the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court have assigned several of the cases to judges from counties other than Maricopa County. Such allegations have also motivated counsel in unrelated criminal cases to file motions alleging that the Maricopa County Attorney has an ongoing conflict in prosecuting criminal cases in the Superior Court in Maricopa County. These motions are pending.
McGregor is appointed to fix this mess and, somehow, protect the integrity of the system. It's a hell of a job. She gets access to "all records and information" she needs (except, I suppose, those Sheriff Joe and the boys have destroyed or successfully hidden), and she can issue subpoenas. It's all
an attempt to ensure that the lawsuits and investigations do not further affect the administration of justice in the Superior Court in Maricopa County or diminish public trust and confidence in the justice system.
As Sarah Fenske said, in her New Times report on this development,
We wouldn't wish this job on our worst enemy.
McGregor was appointed on the 23rd. The next day, just in time for Christmas, Andy Thomas asked her to begin investigations of Sheila Polk and James Walsh.

You remember Polk. She's the elected prosecutor in Yavapai County who had a letter published in the Arizona Republic warning of spreading "totalitarianism" in Maricopa created by the abuses of power by Sheriff Joe and Andy Thomas. (Read about her letter and the immediate aftermath here.)

Walsh is the prosecutor in Pinal County. He, too, wrote to the Republic.
There is something utterly disturbing when everybody that speaks out is the next subject of an investigation.
He was speaking of the past, but as Antonio says in The Tempest, "what's past is prologue." And it is exactly because they spoke out that Thomas asked McGregor to investigate Polk and Walsh. The stated reason:

In the past week, both the Yavapai County Attorney and the Pinal County Attorney have issued public statements about pending criminal cases and matters in Maricopa County.
Speak, and you shall be investigated.

According to the Arizona Republic, everyone is happy with McGregor's appointment. So far so good.

My prediction: First time she rules against Arpaio/Thomas on something, they'll call for an investigation of her.

h/t Scott Greenfield

1 comment:

  1. "We can't stay here, this is bat country!" Thank you for the fantastic update and compilation of 'teh crazy' in Maricopa County!