Legal Reference

Judges sure Sheriff Joe and Andrew Thomas for civil rights violations

Here are the copies of 3 lawsuits where Maricopa County Judges are suing Sheriff Joe and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas for false arrest and various civil rights violations.


5 suing Maricopa County over probes, lawsuits by Arpaio and Thomas

by Yvonne Wingett and JJ Hensley - Dec. 1, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

Five former and present Superior Court judges and Maricopa County officials are suing the county, claiming Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas targeted them in criminal investigations and lawsuits without merit to retaliate for court rulings and budget cuts.

Three of the lawsuits were filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court. Another on behalf of two claimants was filed Nov. 23.

All seek punitive damages and ask that the cases go to trial, claiming physical maladies, mental anguish, tarnished reputations and loss of consortium.

Suits were filed by Judge Gary Donahoe; former judges Barbara Mundell and Anna Baca; Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson; and Susan Schuerman, executive assistant to Supervisor Don Stapley.

"Reputations are so fragile," said private attorney Michael Manning, who is representing three of the claimants. "And each of these clients suffered a significant negative impact to their reputations."

Over two years, Arpaio and Thomas launched a series of corruption investigations against county supervisors, judges and others.

Those conflicts have cost the county at least $5.6 million in the past two years, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of public records. Most of the money was paid to attorneys.

A Republic review of public records related to those investigations found that top prosecutors in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office repeatedly cautioned Thomas against pursuing some of those investigations.

All of the lawsuits are tied to those investigations. They accuse Arpaio, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, Thomas and former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon of abuse of power, failure to properly train employees, invasion of privacy, substantive due-process violations and defamation.

Arpaio, Hendershott, Thomas and Aubuchon also are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which for months has been presenting evidence to a federal grand jury.

Meanwhile, the State Bar of Arizona, which licenses attorneys, has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to investigate the conduct of Thomas, Aubuchon and another attorney tied to the cases. The findings of that ethics investigation are expected to be released soon.

Jack MacIntyre, a sheriff's deputy chief, reasoned that the spate of lawsuits was related to the Board of Supervisors' recent decision to appoint attorneys unfamiliar with Arpaio to help defend the Sheriff's Office.

Thomas took it a step further, denying the allegations and demanding a day in court to defend his actions.

"Any attempt to settle these cases without giving Sheriff Arpaio and me the opportunity to defend ourselves and finally have a chance to question these individuals under oath would be a fraud on the taxpayers," he said.

Of the Mundell and Baca complaints, Aubuchon said, "I clearly disagree with the allegations and look forward to proving they are false."

In the lawsuits:

- Wilson says Arpaio and Thomas targeted her after she recommended budget cuts to their agencies. She alleges Thomas and Aubuchon continued to defame and harass her even after they left office. She had offered to settle for written apologies or $2 million.

- Donahoe alleges Thomas and Hendershott filed a criminal complaint against him to create a conflict of interest that would force him off cases involving other legal battles between Thomas, Arpaio and other county officials. Donahoe's complaint alleges their investigation into the county's court-tower project "was simply the Trojan Horse for Arpaio and Thomas's assault on their political enemies. The only 'crime' committed by Judge Donahoe was to issue a ruling adverse to Arpaio and Thomas." Among other allegations, Donahoe claims Arpaio and Thomas ignored a grand-jury decision to kill the case against him, continued to publicly portray the judge as the subject of a criminal investigation and chose a man who Donahoe says threatened to kill him as the process server designated to deliver the complaint to him. Donahoe had offered to settle for $4.75 million.

- Former judges Mundell and Baca allege Arpaio and Thomas named them in a "baseless" racketeering lawsuit to "intimidate, harass, discredit and humiliate" them. They also claim Arpaio and Thomas intentionally tarnished their reputations and character through news releases, TV interviews and Internet postings. Each had offered to settle for $4.75 million.

- Schuerman, Stapley's assistant, alleges that prosecutors and investigators tapped her phones, followed her, sent sheriff's deputies to patrol her street and publicly denigrated her to intimidate her into cooperating with their criminal investigation into Stapley. She had offered to settle for $1.75 million.

County Manager David Smith said he was still searching for a mediator to help resolve the cases.