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March 25, 2010

Retribution Bests Reason in Maricopa County’s Political Saga

April issue of ABA Journal unravels an Arizona showdown

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio <br><i>Photo by AP images</i>

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo by AP images)

“The Maricopa Courthouse War” in the April issue of ABA Journal chronicles a long-running controversy in Maricopa County, Ariz., involving Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Prosecutor Andrew Thomas that is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Since the two teamed up in 2005, according to the eight-page article, Arpaio’s reign as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” has been steeped in accusations of “racism, cronyism and a widespread use of law enforcement and criminal prosecution to settle increasingly bitter political intrigues.”  And under Thomas, tensions between the prosecutor’s office and the courts have become so serious that dozens of lawyers have filed motions seeking to move criminal cases out of Maricopa County, claiming their clients could no longer be guaranteed fair trials because of the intimidation of judges.

In December 2009, Thomas filed bribery changes against a local superior court judge who had held a sheriff’s deputy in contempt for stealing case files from a defense attorney in a Maricopa court. The incident was only the latest in a series of controversial activities attributed to Thomas and Arpaio—immigration sweeps, investigations of county employees and politically motivated litigation costing Maricopa County millions in legal fees.  And in December hundreds of well-dressed, sign-waving lawyers gathered in protest at the county courthouse to protest the charges against the judge.  See the rest of the story here.

The ABA Journal covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession.  The flagship publication of the _ is sent to every ABA member and reaches more than half of the 1.1 million lawyers in this country each month.  In addition, its Web site, www.ABAJournal.com, is updated every business day with 25 to 50 breaking legal news stories, features, a directory of more than 2,500 legal blogs, and an archive of the full text of the magazine going back through 2004.

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