Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Arizona Supremes Read Twitter

In the first bar disciplinary case reviewed under its new procedures, the Arizona Supreme Court reduced a six-month and one day suspension imposed by a hearing panel and instead imposed a suspension of six months.

The effect of the reduced sanction is that the attorney is reinstated without further proceedings at the expiration of the suspension period.

The high profile bar case involved misconduct charges against several Maricopa County prosecutors, one of whom had appealed here.

The court found that the attorney lacked competence, engaged in a conflict of interest by suing her own client and maintained a frivolous RICO case against judges, public officials and others.

The court found her expressions of remorse rang hollow:

And while the disciplinary hearing was ongoing, [the attorney] posted to her personal website and published on her Twitter account another person's column describing the disciplinary proceedings as "nothing but a trumped-up, meritless witch hunt" that unfairly targeted [the attorney] for her conservative views.

The Arizona Republic reported on the proceedings and appeal:

Former Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Alexander has filed documents with the Arizona Supreme Court appealing her suspension from practicing law.

Her attorney, Scott Zwillinger, also filed notice Friday that he is withdrawing from the case because county officials have decided they will not pay attorneys fees for any appeals of last week's disciplinary actions against Alexander, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon.

On April 10, Thomas and Aubuchon were disbarred by a three-member Supreme Court disciplinary panel for ethical misconduct during years-long battles with county officials.

Among the disciplinary panel's findings were that they filed criminal charges against a sitting county Superior Court judge without probable cause and that they prosecuted other county officials to burden or embarrass them for political reasons.

Alexander was suspended for six months and a day for her role in a federal civil racketeering lawsuit filed against judges and county officials that the panel deemed to be frivolous and incompetent. Any suspension longer than six months requires an attorney to go through a more rigorous process of being reinstated to the state Bar.

Zwillinger said Alexander planned to base her appeal on a number of issues, including the court's decision to try her under a new system of disciplinary review, rather than the previous method, which depended on a larger panel. She also planned to contest the length of the suspension, Zwillinger said. The independent Bar counsel retained by the Supreme Court recommended only a three-month suspension.

Zwillinger said Alexander likely will also contest the county's decision not to pay further attorneys fees.

(Mike Frisch)

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