More than 250 Lawyers and Others Rally Against Maricopa County Attorney

Posted By Mike Padgett

Dec. 21, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – The ongoing budgets war pitting Maricopa County’s key elected officials against each other boiled over today at a downtown rally attended by a crowd estimated at between 250 and 300.

The crowd cheered and clapped at verbal broadsides of “bully” and “coward” aimed at Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who has aligned himself with County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The noon rally was on the plaza on the north side of the Maricopa County Superior Court complex.

Thomas and Arpaio, staunch critics of the county Board of Supervisors, allege that the county is riddled with conspiracy and corruption. Earlier this month, Thomas filed a criminal complaint against the presiding criminal court judge. He also has filed criminal charges against two county supervisors – one for the second time, after the dismissal of the first group of charges. Thomas also has hinted at investigations of other county officials.

Also today, County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox appeared in a Pima County Superior Court in Tucson, where they pleaded innocent to Maricopa County grand jury charges filed against them, according to news reports. The case was transferred to Pima County to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Attorney Tom Ryan addressed a rally in downtown Phoenix to protest the actions of County Attorney Andrew Thomas and County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Photo by Mike Padgett.

The Phoenix rally started about 12:20 p.m. Attorney Tom Ryan, who introduced several other attorneys, began the verbal attacks at Thomas. A call to Thomas spokesman Barnett Lotstein after the rally was not returned.

“Andrew Thomas is a bully and a coward,” Ryan began, “who when he does not get his own way, he abuses the awesome power of the office of the county attorney in a misguided and unethical attempt to get his way.”

Throughout the 45-minute presentation, the crowd interrupted the speakers with applause and cheers.

Ryan continued. “By your very conduct, Mr. Thomas, you have become a threat to the rule of law and the very constitution you swore to uphold and protect. You, sir, have made yourself a domestic enemy to our (U.S. and Arizona) constitutions.”

The crowd cheered and applauded.

Ryan introduced private attorney Shawn Aiken, who said, “The reason that we’re here (at the rally) is that over the last 30 days, Andrew Thomas has stepped over the line and we’re fed up, and we’ve had enough.”

More applause.

Aiken continued. “Folks, one of the finest state courts in the United States is under direct attack. The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary – it’s hard to overstate this – is under attack. And I’m so glad to be here with you, to be here with you and say, ‘We are fed up.’ Thank you.”

Ryan returned to the microphone and introduced Robert McWhirter, senior attorney in the Maricopa County Legal Defender’s Office. McWhirter said the county’s residents need a county attorney “that didn’t waste precious county resources prosecuting dishwashers and gardeners.”

The crowd responded with louder applause and cheering.

McWhirter continued his criticisms of Thomas. “It’s about time that we had a county attorney that didn’t waste time filing frivolous and expensive lawsuits against respected judges.

“It’s about time that we had a county attorney that just didn’t join arm in arm with the county sheriff on every little publicity initiative that happens to come to their minds,” McWhirter said.

“It’s about time that we had a county attorney that didn’t fight the county board of supervisors just because (the supervisors) needed to cut a budget.”

“It’s about time that we had a county attorney that was a better lawyer,” Robert McWhirter, senior attorney in the Maricopa County Legal Defender’s office, told the crowd. Photo by Mike Padgett

Others in the crowd were critics of Arpaio. They waved signs challenging his stance on immigration laws and his enforcement efforts.

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Dec 21st, 2009

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