Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maricopa - Don't Think It's Over

There's more coverage of yesterday's rally.

According to
Nick Martin at Heat City James Belanger, the white-collar criminal defense lawyer who called for the rally,
compared the attorneys [who gathered] to sparrows chasing away a dangerous hawk. He said he was proud of the outcome.

“It’s incredible that we’re here to show our support for the rule of law,” he said. “And it’s incredible that we’re here to oppose this attack on our judiciary.”
Mark Bennett interviewed Belanger for a podcast at Defending People. And Mike, at Crime & Federalism nominates Belanger for Lawyer of the Year.

Along with some great photos, the Arizona Republic quotes criminal defense attorney John Curry.
I think all Maricopa County citizens need to be very concerned about this attack on the independent judiciary, because without an independent judiciary, there is no rule of law.
Scott noticed that the ABA Journal actually reported on the rally, though without so much as a hint that those who attended were standing up for the rule of law in the finest tradition of our profession. But Andy the Lawyer, who posted the first comment, understood perfectly.
Inspiring, along the lines of the Pakistani lawyers protesting Musharref’s sacking of that nation’s Supreme Court judiciary. But now we can expect the sheriff to arrest every lawyer in Maricaipo County on Patriot Act-inspired grounds.
Of course, Maricopa under the Arpaio/Thomas rule is not (yet) Musharref's Pakistan. Rick Horowitz emphasized the dangerous implication of the parenthetical "yet" in that sentence last week when he explained How Police States Are Born.

All that's by way of preface.

It's true that Sheriff Joe and his minions weren't at the rally with fire hoses or tanks. As far as I can tell, nobody was arrested or roughed up. All to the good. But the truth is that Joe and his poodle won't be stopped. Maybe it's just so ingrained they can't help themselves. Nah. It's choice. Criticism of them carries a price.

So we come to Sheila Polk who is about to learn that lesson.

Like Tom Ryan, who led off the rally, Sharon Polk is a self-described conservative Republican. More, she's the Yavapai County Attorney. Yavapai is the county just north of Maricopa. And she sent a letter that the Arizona Republic ran as an op ed Monday.

On April 1, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas requested that I take from him the criminal investigations and prosecutions involving members of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. I agreed.

For the next six months, I worked with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office on the cases.
She turned the cases back to Thomas on October 6. Happily.

I was happy to remove myself from the cases and from contact with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

My discomfort grew daily and my role in restraining potential abuses of power increasingly more difficult. It was a relief to package up the files and return them to Maricopa County.

And what follows?

Maricopa County is not my jurisdiction, but I can no longer sit by quietly and watch from a distance the abuses of power by Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

I am conservative and passionately believe in limited government, not the totalitarianism that is spreading before my eyes.

The actions of Arpaio and Thomas are a disservice to the hundreds of dedicated men and women who work in their offices, and a threat to the entire criminal-justice system.

Peace officers and prosecutors take an oath of office that is sacred. We swear, under God, to support and defend our Constitution and our laws against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We also swear to "impartially discharge the duties of the office."

Our power, granted to us by the people, is not a personal tool to target political enemies or avenge perceived wrongs.

This is powerful stuff. It gets better.

In maintaining public safety, each of us is tasked, by our oath, with protecting the rights and privileges of the least among us. Everyday, in every single thing we do to keep our communities safe, we must respect the rule of law and the protections set forth in our Constitution.

Abdication of these responsibilities causes erosion of confidence in law enforcement and our communities become less safe.

And better.

Our vocation is to seek justice. When one of us forsakes our role as protectors of the Constitution, it is up to the others to call him out.

Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio have strayed from their constitutional duties.

Look. These folks are in the same business. They're members of the same political party. They're natural allies.

Prosecutors simply don't engage in this sort of attack on other prosecutors without cause. Or without thinking about the consequences. And they came quickly.

Joe's chief deputy, David Hendershott, who "spoke on behalf of Arpaio," told the Arizona Republic that Polk mishandled the investigations that Thomas gave her.
"It seemed clear to us that this case was being deliberately stalled," he said. "We basically let her know that her work product was ineffective."
Got that. She was intentionally sabotaging a criminal investigation. Or so they say. Once again, call out Joe and his poodle and you become a target. An editorial in today's Arizona Republic lays it out.
As a result of stepping forward, Polk now may join the fast-growing list of Arizona public officials forced to defend themselves against criminal investigations for the "crime" of having upset Arpaio and Thomas.
. . .
The chief deputy's message is clear. Arizona public officials have the right to remain silent about Arpaio and Thomas's fast-spreading reign of terror. But anything they say disparaging about the duo will be used against them.
Any doubt Polk about it? Hendershott made the connection plain. After all, he's delivering a message.
Hendershott said that, after learning of Polk's letter, he also notified the FBI of his concerns about Polk's handling of the investigations.
This isn't subtle. But what happens next? What if Polk doesn't stop? Do they send someone out with a baseball bat to break her kneecaps?

The feds seem singularly unwilling to take on the Arpaio/Thomas machine. Will they do that machine's dirty work?


  1. Hendershott: "We basically let her know that her work product was ineffective."


  2. Indeed. But also, and primarily, BS intended to deflect and humiliate.