Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Laurie Roberts Plays Lawyer!

Is she a lawyer, or not? Tough to tell. In a blog post, she duly notes the first opposition to the Joe Arpaio/Andy Thomas federal RICO lawsuit was filed in court yesterday. But she refuses to analyze who has the best of the argument:

Not being a lawyer, I have no idea whether they are right or not. That's up to a federal judge.
OK, so when it comes to criticizing Joe and Andy, the Clown Show Columnist can't opine as to the merits, because she's not a lawyer. But give it a couple of minutes, because in her comments to the same blog post a couple hours later (scroll down, it's on page 2 of comments), she has no hesitation leaping to legal conclusions:

Irvine represents Superior Court in the courthouse case. Donahoe is the presiding criminal judge of Superior Court. By virtue of that, he is Irvine's client. That's why I don't believe it was appropriate for him to be ruling on motions from Irvine to quash an investigation into Irvine's own county contracts.

There are about a half dozen legal conclusions in that statement from our "not a lawyer" columnist.

(1) Does Irvine represent the Superior Court, as a whole? That's quite a legal conclusion. First of all, in Arizona, there's one Superior Court; the court sits in different counties, but it's all one court. Under her legal conclusion, there's no state trial court judge who could hear the case. Second, is the Superior Court building the courthouse, or is the County as a political subdivision of the state? How does Roberts know that the client is the Superior Court, where does that conclusion come from? Isn't the client the County as an administrative entity, and not every single judge? Wasn't the contract signed by a county contracting official, and not by a judge--and certainly not Judge Donahoe?

(2) So let's leap over those two or three legal and logical chasms and assume Irvine represents the Superior Court as an entity. Donahoe is Irvine's client because -- here comes her next legal conclusion -- every single Superior Court judge is his client. So that means Irvine can't litigate any cases in Maricopa County, because he represents every single judge? How does that work? Wouldn't this conflict apply to every single case, not just those of interest to Andy and Joe?

(3) Doesn't the County Attorney also represent the entire county, including the Superior Court functions, in lawsuits--such as when a prisoner files a Section 1983 action? Doesn't that make every attorney in the County Attorney office the lawyer for each single judge, if Irvine is the lawyer for every judge? How would the county ever defend a lawsuit, if as soon as it hired counsel, the judge hearing the case had a conflict under the legal principles enunciated by sometime-ersatz-lawyer Roberts in the opinion in Laurie v. Reality?

(4) Roberts
says it's inappropriate for a judge to rule on motions involving county contracts involving the courthouse. But if that's right, then the conflicct doesn't affect just Donahoe--it's every single one of the 100+ Maricopa County Superior Court judges and commissioners. The case couldn't and shouldn't have been brought in Maricopa County by Thomas if you accept that reasoning. Every single judicial officer in the county would have the same conflict. Thomas made the error by filing here if he believes this cockamamie conflict theory.

Determining whether a lawyer or judge has a conflict of interest is a legal conclusion, in which you apply law--the Arizona rules of professional responsibility and canons of judicial ethics--to the facts at hand. It's the sort of thing lawyers do, and judges determine (in disputed cases) whether they've made the right call. The Clown Show Columnist certainly can play at being a lawyer when she wants to, provided it's helpful to Arpaio and Thomas.

So you're sitting in the Arizona Republic building. How could possibly you tell that across town, Joe Arpaio or Andy Thomas are speaking? Easy, if Laurie Roberts's fingers are moving on her keyboard.

And even Robert Robb gets it, which is somewhat rare:

What's happening in Maricopa County government isn't a circus. And it's not a joke.
Not anymore. It's now a deadly serious business....

A judge making an erroneous decision isn't a criminal act. And there's a remedy. It's called an appeal.

A judge exhibiting bias isn't a criminal act. And there's a remedy – a complaint filed with the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

A law firm having a conflict isn't a criminal act, and there are remedies: a bar complaint against the firm or a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct if a judge doesn't properly disclose a relationship with a law firm appearing before him.

So even if the Clown Show Columnist thinks "Joe/Andy may be on to something," they've abused their office and ignored the law to follow their hunches. It's not a clown show, says the voice of the establishment GOP; it's a deadly serious business. What is it that the kids say? "Oh, snap!" Take that, Clown Show Columnist! I finally agree with Bob Robb on something.

[Post updated 12/17/09. Andy Thomas disclaimer is here.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Laurie Roberts in person? She looks 35 years older than the picture the Rep uses. IMHO, if someone is reporting the news it should not matter what they look like. You could have a picture of the robot from Lost in Space. But when someone is giving opinion it does matter. If someone is going to tell me what they think about civil rights it makes a difference to me if they are black and 75 years old or Hispanic and 18 years old. When Laurie Roberts trashes the bar industry or talks about DUI laws and does so looking like a soccer mom instead of a crotchety 68 year old it has a different impact on the reader I think.