Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Smoke Slowly Curling Skyward

Today corruption has won and justice has lost.
That was Andy Thomas, former member of Joe 'n' Andy, former prosecutor in Maricopa County (they call the job "County Attorney").  Unrepentent sinner.  And, oh, yeah, former lawyer.
Most importantly, a man who's just wrong.  Today, and it may only be preliminary, and it may not last, and there's sure more to do, but today corruption lost and justice, whatever exactly that might be, pretty clearly won.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his onetime deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, were stripped of their law licenses today as a disciplinary panel handed down the toughest sanctions possible for ethical violations in a case that attracted national interest.

The panel also suspended Rachel Alexander, another Thomas deputy, from practicing law for six months and one day for her role in filing a federal civil racketeering lawsuit against judges and county officials.

After the verdict, Thomas spoke only briefly [and with what a friend rightly describes as "delusional hubris."]

"Today corruption has won and justice has lost," he said. "I brought corruption cases in good faith involving powerful people, and the political and legal establishment blatantly covered up and retaliated by targeting my law license. Arizona has some of the worst corruption in America, according to a recent national survey. The political witch hunt that's just ended makes things worse by sending a chilling message to prosecutors: Those who take on the powerful will lose their livelihood."
Because today Andy Thomas was disbarred (it actually takes effect in 30 days, giving him time to appeal).  Law license yanked by a 3-member disciplinary panel appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court.  The panel examined 33 charges of misconduct against Andy and two of his deputies as "respondents."  They took weeks of testimony.  And then they decided.  
You should read the whole thing (yeah, right), but here's a snapshot from the last substantive paragraph of the 232 page opinion, written by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, William J. O'Neil. It ends this way, with reference to the framers and the pledge of allegiance.
With time, a pledge was created to underscore the foundational principles of our great country. That pledge ends with four words. The words may be simple, but they are profound. “And justice for all.” This Panel is firmly convinced justice for all has occurred in this case. It is also firmly convinced Respondents never intended the same.
If that's not clear enough, maybe the 15 page concurring opinion by the public member of the panel, Rev., Dr. John C.N. Hall will make the point.
This is the story of three unethical attorneys, Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon, and to a lesser extent, Rachel Alexander. This is the story of County Attorneys who did not “let justice be done,” but rather, birthed injustice after injustice. This is the story of the public trust dishonored, desecrated, and defiled. This multi-year-wreck-of-a-ride, operated by Andrew Thomas and staffed by Aubuchon and Alexander, outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law. By the time Andrew Thomas resigned, with his hopes of attaining higher public office and greater public trust, his legacy lay in a smoldering heap, its smoke slowly curling skyward like a prayer for relief.
Of course, this isn't the end.  There will be that appeal.  And Andy's real partner in all of this, Sheriff Joe, is still going strong.  But it seems that whatever justice is, for the moment it's prevailed.  Corruption, hubris, megalomania, the powerful struck down.
A first step.  Not a small one.  But just a step.
Pay attention.  Let's see what happens next.

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