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AZ State Bar accused of serious ethical misconduct for obstructing illegal immigration enforcement

By Rachel Alexander
web posted June 2, 2008

The Arizona State Bar is attempting to stop Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas from enforcing illegal immigration laws by investigating him. Top legal ethics experts, including a former State Bar President, former State Bar Chief legal counsel, former Attorney General, and former Chief Justice of the AZ Supreme Court, have found no merit to the investigations. 

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to investigate the Arizona State Bar Association for ethical misconduct involving thwarting illegal immigration enforcement. The State Bar began investigating Thomas and other prosecutors in the County Attorney's Office after Thomas challenged the Maricopa County Superior Court for deliberately refusing to follow Prop. 100, a voter initiative that passed in 2006 with 78% approval prohibiting bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious crimes. When the Superior Court refused to comply, Thomas successfully got the state legislature and the Arizona Supreme Court to force them to. Angry that Thomas had taken on the courts and won, some retired judges lobbied the State Bar to "do something" about Thomas.

Thomas asked several experts in legal ethics to review the bar complaints that suddenly emerged against him. All of the experts concluded that none of the complaints had any merit, and that the State Bar had engaged in misconduct. These experts are: Thomas Zlaket, former Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court (politically liberal); Jack La Sota, former Attorney General of Arizona; Ernest Calderon, former State Bar President (a Democrat); Geoffrey Hazard, former Yale Law School professor and perhaps the nation's leading expert on legal ethics; and Michael Alan Schwartz, former chief counsel at the State Bar of Michigan.

The chief legal counsel of the Arizona State Bar, Robert Van Wyck, has demanded privileged material from the County Attorney's Office and says he will turn it over to adverse parties involved in current or prior litigation against the County Attorney's Office. He has been coordinating and working with an alternative tabloid newspaper, the Phoenix New Times, which detests Thomas.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio supports Thomas and said that one of his attorneys has also been the target of a frivolous bar investigation related to illegal immigration enforcement. Arpaio will criminally investigate the State Bar if necessary.

The State Bar is under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Supreme Court. It is despicable that the State Bar, an entity whose job is to uphold the law, is doing the opposite. The judges who requested that the State Bar investigate Thomas are attempting to control the Executive Branch, which the prosecutors' office is part of. This is an unconstitutional abuse of the separation of powers. Seventy-eight percent of Arizonans want Proposition 100 enforced, and a majority also want illegal immigration laws enforced. For the State Bar to obstruct the will of the voters by investigating the man responsible for upholding the law is unlawful. And without the rule of law, society is chaos.

The other alarming aspect of this investigation is its attempt to curtail free speech. The local judiciary and the State Bar were upset with Thomas for criticizing their obstruction of Proposition 100. After one of Thomas's attorneys wrote an article defending him in the newspaper, the State Bar began investigating him over the article (it comes as no surprise that they recently dismissed that investigation).  Free speech is one of our most cherished fundamental rights, there is a reason it's the First Amendment. I didn't clear this article with the State Bar before publishing it, because it's within my right to free speech. So maybe I'll be the target of an investigation. 

To read the entire news release, click here. Visit illegalimmigrationjournal.com for updated news on illegal immigration, and sign up for the free weekly newsletter. ESR

Rachel Alexander is a Deputy County Attorney with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.


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