The State Bar of Arizona is increasingly at risk of becoming a laughingstock in its dealings with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, as the quasi-official agency would appear to be continually investigating this publicly elected official.
On the same day that the bar dismissed the last of 13 ethics complaints against Thomas as unfounded, the agency revealed it had opened a new investigation related to his criminal prosecution of county Supervisor Don Stapley.
At least, that’s how a bar spokesperson described it to Tribune writer Mark Flatten. Thomas told Tribune journalists in a meeting this week the bar had received a new complaint about his actions but hadn’t actually started doing anything.
In fact, it would be quite unconscionable for the bar to investigate Thomas or his office about a criminal case while that prosecution is still ongoing. To do so could subject the people’s attorney to undue political pressure from defense lawyers or anyone else who might want to protect the target of a prosecution.
The real problem here is the bar didn’t immediately dismiss the ethics complaint and recommend that the author file it again, if relevant, once the Stapley matter is over. In light of the previous complaints, the agency is exposing Thomas to repeated harassment from those who object to his policies but don’t have substantial evidence that any ethical rules were violated.
This perversion of justice is expensive, as Thomas says his office has already spent nearly $600,000 in answering these allegations. The state bar must put a stop to such abuse of the taxpayers.