The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has to send written notification to the county’s public defense attorneys about which jail doors are open to them for after-hours visits and post signs directing them how to get there, a judge ruled Monday.
Judge Anna Baca of Maricopa County Superior Court also found that the sheriff’s office did not violate her Dec. 6 order to allow defense attorneys to visit their clients in jail after hours when a defense attorney found the front doors locked Dec. 14.
Public defender Daniel Mestaz testified in a hearing Tuesday that the doors were locked at 3:09 p.m. when he went to visit Carl Sherman, a client who is in jail on accusations he had sex with a teenager.
Mestaz alleged in court documents that the doors were locked in violation of Baca’s orders, which she put in place after defense attorneys successfully argued that the constitutional rights of their clients were being violated because they couldn’t visit them under new hours established in October.
The sheriff’s office cut its visitation hours from 12 to eight hours a day to make up a $1.8 million deficit due to overtime pay.
Baca ruled that attorneys be allowed access up to 9 p.m. That ruling is under appeal and will be heard today in the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Sheriff’s Capt. Nick Larkin testified that the doors Mestaz went to were locked but that Mestaz would have had access at a nearby door.
Larkin said he informed staff that defense attorneys had access to clients 24 hours a day.
The sheriff’s office also presented evidence that another defense attorney got in to see his client later on the same day as Mestaz’s attempt.
Providing access isn’t enough, Baca said.
“In order for MCSO to fully comply with the Order, MCSO must effectively allow access to all privileged visitors seeking access to their clients, not just those who happen to find a way to find an entry,” Baca wrote.
Jack MacIntyre, sheriff’s spokesman, said the office considers Monday’s ruling a victory for the sheriff’s office, but he believes the court is unconstitutionally butting into the executive branch’s duties.
“She needs to manage the criminal docket, not the jail facilities,” MacIntyre said.