Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas lost his law license. He had the proverbial book thrown at him — all 74,350 words of a 247-page Disciplinary Order replete with virtually an endless stream of quotable notables from Proverbs to Aristotle to Dwight Eisenhower to Shakespeare to Ben Franklin to Gandhi and even others too numerous or obscure to mention. Suffice it to say that there were so many quotations, I half expected a pearl of wisdom citing Thomas’ supposed infractions of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. And I still think it’s a shame no one quoted ‘The Godfather of Soul.”
Thomas was disbarred because a 3-member ethics panel found among other things that he’d improperly and unethically used his office to lay siege to his political enemies by filing unfounded criminal charges against county supervisors and members of the local judiciary.
So Thomas was taken to the woodshed. But some might’ve preferred flattening the shed with a bulldozer with him in it now that Thomas has shamelessly chosen not to hide in ignominious seclusion. Since his disbarment, he’s instead been running around town playing the martyr-card. Never mind his public humiliation. The defrocked lawyer is no chastened flagellant penitentially scourging himself before donning his button-down hair shirt.
But no matter. Thomas has been making speeches, doing interviews and trying his best to appear relevant as a self-described crusading reformer against a government he claims is rife with corruption. And by his way of thinking, what’s he got to lose?
While waiting for an appointment on Wednesday, I caught the butt-end of his latest interview on the local Phoenix NPR affiliate, KJZZ 91.5 FM. Thomas told interviewer Steve Goldstein of his intentions to continue targeting what he termed, Maricopa County corruption.
But ironically, part of Thomas’ message during the 27 minutes or so of his radio interview was to lend support to Proposition 115, a voter referendum on the November ballot that supposedly reforms Arizona’s judicial merit selection and retention election system. The irony stems from the fact that the clueless caped crusading Thomas is supporting an initiative also endorsed by the Arizona State Bar and the Arizona Judges Association. And according to reports, Thomas was surprised to learn that. Sounds like more of the same blundering absence of due diligence that got him into trouble in the first place.
Last year, I referred to the then-proposed ‘reforms’ as little more than playing “small ball” on judicial merit selection and retention. I am still of the same opinion and frankly believe that Proposition 115 is so far removed from reform that the status quo might be preferable. I explained as much when I responded to a local Merit Selection “Fan” who I opined was shooting blanks.
Much is made by the wing-nuts on the Right and the Left about the proposition’s so-called ‘reform’ component that requires the judicial nominating commissions to submit 8 not 3 judicial candidates to the governor. How absurd. The selection process which presents the governor with those choices is largely the same. The only change is that the bar no longer automatically has 3 slots on the judicial nominating commission for 3 of its board of governors members.
Except that the bar still vets who gets to park their butts on the nominating commissions. The bar remains the gatekeeper screening the applicants who’ll be nominated to the governor for appointment to the nominating commissions. Plus, the bar’s president still keeps a seat on the nominating commission.
No, what the legal establishment really likes about the referendum is that the ‘beat goes on.’ There are no substantive changes. Instead, what’s really been overlooked is how the establishment pulled a fast one on the intellectual dwarves at the statehouse.
The referendum actually entrenches the current system. It extends the judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 and pushes back the judicial retention election cycles for appellate judges and supreme court justices from 6 years to 8 years and from 4 years to 8 for county superior court judges.
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