Archive for Politics

In 2002, officer Lovelace fatally shot a woman who was suspected of illegal obtaining prescription drugs at a drive-thru pharmacy in Chandler.  Lovelace was thereafter charged with murder by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.  A jury found Lovelace not guilty of the charge during a criminal trial that ended in the summer of 2004.

Lovelace was terminated from the department and the city had to pay several million dollars to settle legal claims arising from his conduct.  According to news reports, Lovelace will now be working as a detention officer with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

Lovelace’s criminal case was extensively litigated by his criminal defense attorney  before the trial commenced.  In fact, the case was actually dismissed at one point after the court ruled that prosecution did not present the evidence to the grand jury in a full and fair manner.  After the court’s ruling, the prosecution presenting the case to another grand jury and obtained another indictment.  In remanding the case back to the grand jury, the court held:

 Arizona law has never required the grand jury to receive or consider all potentially exculpatory evidence. In State v. Superior Court (Mauro), 139 Ariz. 422, 678 P.2d 1386 (1984), the Court held that the prosecutor’s duty to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury extended only to “clearly exculpatory evidence”, defined as “evidence of such weight that it would deter the grand jury from finding the existence of probable cause.” Mauro, Id. at 425, 678 P.2d at 1390. However, an accused is entitled to due process during grand jury proceedings. State v. Emery, 131 Ariz. 493, 506, 642 P.d 838, 851 (1982). Due process requires the use of an unbiased grand jury and a fair and impartial presentation of the evidence. Id. State v Emery. The duties of fair play and impartiality imposed on those who attend and serve the grand jury are meant to insure that the determinations made by that body are informed, objective, and just. Crimmins v. Superior Court in and for Maricopa County, 137 Ariz. 39, 668 P.d 882 (1983). Arizona case law has specifically mandated that false, misleading or inaccurate evidence may not be presented to the grand jury, and, if it is, a remand is warranted. Maretick v. Jarrett, 391 Ariz. Adv.Rep. 9, 63 P.3d 120 (En Banc 2003); Escobar v. Superior Court 155 Ariz. 298, 746 P.2d 39 (App.1987). It appears to the Court that several errors occurred in Detective Kieffer’s testimony before the grand jury. First, Detective Kieffer testified that Defendant said when he shot Ms. Nelson he remembers looking at her and seeing: “….. that her arms were up on the steering wheel at about 10:00 o’clock and 2:00 o’clock” (GJT p.19) That was not the way Defendant described it in his taped interview dated October 11, 2002. Defendant, in fact, stated: “I know that I was facing her at a slight angle, not directly perpendicular. Less than perpendicular when I shot. So where I was exactly all I know is the car was coming at me…. It’s at a slight angle and she’s….. has her left arm still up. So she’s slightly turned and she’s making….. So she’s leaning slightly to her right and she’s looking right at me as she’s turning.

There is nothing in the transcript of Defendant’s interview that confirms that he said that Ms. Nelson’s arms were up on the steering wheel at about 10:00 and 2:00 o’clock. Second, the Affidavits of Attorney Dale Norris and Chandler Police Officer Daryle Palmer, both of whom witnessed the interview of Defendant, state that Defendant never stated or demonstrated that when he shot Ms. Nelson her left hand was at the 10:00 o’clock position. Daryle Palmer stated that Defendant indicated he first saw Ms. Nelson turning her steering wheel with her right hand in a counter-clockwise motion, turning the vehicle towards him. Defendant further indicated that just before he discharged his weapon, Ms. Nelson had her left arm up and was leaning slightly to her right. Officer Palmer stated that, as Defendant demonstrated this movement, the left side of Ms. Nelson’s body was more forward than her right side, her left hand was not on the steering wheel, her left forearm was raised and moved toward the passenger side, which caused her left upper arm, which was close to her body, to be rotated slightly clockwise. Dale Norris stated that Defendant said and demonstrated that Ms. Nelson was turning hard to the left and her right hand was high on the steering wheel. He said that Defendant stated and demonstrated that Ms. Nelson’s left arm was held high and visible above the door while turning the vehicle. Defendant indicated and demonstrated that Ms. Nelson was leaning to the right away from Defendant before he discharged his weapon. Finally, Mr. Norris stated that Defendant demonstrated that when turning her body to the right, Ms. Nelson was exposing the rear of her left shoulder to Defendant. The Court FINDS it noteworthy that the State has not offered an affidavit from Detective Kaminsky, who conducted Defendant’s interview, controverting the Palmer and Norris affidavits. These descriptions of what Officer Palmer and Mr. Norris heard and observed during Defendant’s interview become even more important since the following questions were asked by the prosecutor and the following answers were given by Detective Kieffer during the grand jury proceeding.

Q…..”What we have the medical examiner finds the bullet enters the back of her left arm; correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Travels from back to front?

A. Correct.

Q. And comes to rest in this right breast?

A. Correct.

Q. The officer said that he was facing her when he fires?

A. Correct.

Q. With her arms up on the steering wheel?

A. Correct.

Q. That’s inconsistent with what the medical examiner found because the

medical examiner found the left arm had to have been up against the

chest wall?

A. Yes.

Q. The arm would not have been extending?

A. Correct.

Q. It’s possible, I suppose, that at the time the shot was fired she

could have — in order to get that back to front, she could turned

very sharply to right and then exposed her left arm to where the

officer said he was?

A. Correct. Correct.

Q. That’s not how he described seeing her?

A. No, it’s not.” (GJT, pp. 40-41) (Emphasis added).A. No, it’s not.” (GJT, pp. 40-41) (Emphasis added).

Detective Kieffer’s testimony, that Defendant did not describe that Ms. Nelson turned to the right and then exposed her left arm to where the Defendant said he was positioned, was misleading. In fact, Detective Palmer and Mr. Norris, who were both present during the interview, stated that is precisely how he described it. The Court notes that neither Mr. Norris nor Officer Palmer prepared supplements to become part of the departmental report regarding this incident. Detective Kieffer was not present during Defendant’s interview and did not have the information from Officer Palmer or Mr. Norris when he testified before the grand jury. The prosecutor also did not have the benefit of any supplements prepared by Mr. Norris and/or Officer Palmer. Accordingly, it cannot be said that the prosecutor and/or the officer intentionally mislead the grand jury regarding what the Defendant described. However, in the telephonic conference between Court and counsel on May 8, 2003, Mr. Imbordino acknowledged that, if had been aware of the information provided by Palmer and Norris, he would have had to present it to the grand jury.

With regard to Detective Kieffer’s testimony as to the 10:00 o’clock and 2:00 o’clock position of Ms. Nelson’s arms, that testimony was simply a misunderstood interpretation of what Defendant stated in his interview. Regardless of the fact that there was no intentional misleading of the grand jury, the duties of fair play and impartiality imposed on those who attend and serve the grand jury require that the presentation of the evidence be a fair presentation. In this case, the incident took place in a matter of seconds. The exact position of Ms. Nelson’s body in her vehicle at the time of the shooting in relation to Defendant’s position is a crucial issue to be determined by the finder of fact. The State has the right to use Defendant’s statement in the grand jury presentation, but its use must be precise and accurate. It is important in the interests of justice that a full and fair presentation of the relevant evidence regarding the position of Ms. Nelson’s body in her vehicle be presented to the grand jury. That was not done and, accordingly, IT IS ORDERED granting Defendant’s Motion to Remand. The matter is remanded to the grand jury for further proceedings in accordance with the ruling of the Court. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED vacating any pending trial or trial management conference dates.

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Jun
11

Court denies County Supervisor Don Stapley’s Motion to Dismiss

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Don Stapley is facing over 100 charges in the Superior Court arising from allegations that he completed financial disclosure forms containing omissions and misstatements.  His attorneys attempted to get the charges dismissed on the grounds that the county attorney had previously provided legal advice related to the disclosure forms.  In denying Mr. Stapley’s motion the court held:

The evidence is undisputed that the Defendant as a member of the Board of Supervisors for Maricopa County consulted with Deputy Maricopa County Attorneys assigned to the County Attorney’s civil department/division on matters relating to his official duties and provided financial information. It is also undisputed that generally the subject of that disclosure is also the subject matter of certain counts in the indictment against the Defendant. There is no evidence that any of the information disclosed to the civil Deputy County Attorneys was used to obtain the indictment against Defendant.

It is the Defendant’s position that because confidential information was obtained by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office that was part of the indictment, a conflict of interest was created. This conflict disqualified the Maricopa County Attorney’s office from appearing before the Maricopa County Grand Jury as an authorized prosecutor to present evidence under Rule 12.5, AZ Rules of Criminal Procedure. Defendant further argues that the appearance of an unauthorized person before the Grand Jury denies him Due Process and irreparably taints the indictment. This taint in turn requires dismissal.

The State’s argument in response is that there was no conflict of interest disqualifying the Maricopa Country Attorney since there is no attorney-client relationship. The Attorney-Client relationship, according to the State, is one created by statute, A.R.S. § 11-532(A) (9), which provides that the County Attorney is the legal advisor to the Board of Supervisors. The State further argues that this relationship does not extend to individual members of the Board.
The State’s position is that giving advice to individual members on how to deal with conflict of interest issues and on the financial disclosure forms as well as presenting evidence here to the Grand Jury is not egregious misconduct requiring dismissal.

At the hearing on these motions, a former civil department Deputy County Attorney and a current civil department Deputy County Attorney (civil deputies) testified. The testimony established that prior to this indictment, the civil deputies did not explain to newly elected county officials, including members of the Board of Supervisors, the scope of the attorney-client relationship with the Maricopa County Attorney’s office. The current civil deputy testified she gave “general advice” on conflict of interest issues and financial disclosure forms, but not “specific advice” on how to fill out the forms. She testified she gave individual advice relating only to a member’s role as a Supervisor and would not give advice on what information to include on the financial disclosure forms.

The former civil deputy testified that he gave legal advice to individual members if it was in furtherance of his representation of the Board of Supervisors. He also gave advice in the past to members of the Board of Supervisors on financial disclosure forms as to what items to include on the forms and viewed this as part of his role as a civil deputy. He viewed this as part of the attorney-client relationship and as confidential information. He has given advice to the Defendant on disclosure forms but cannot recall any specifics. He also noted however that if an individual member disclosed something that would concern the entire Board, he would discuss the matter with other Board members.

There is no doubt that the better practice would have been for the Maricopa County Attorney to refer the entire investigation at its inception to another State prosecuting agency, such as the Attorney General or another county attorney, given the relationship with the Board of Supervisors as its legal advisor. This Court must however review all the evidence to determine if, under the specific circumstances here, the Maricopa County Attorney was disqualified because an attorney-client relationship was created with the Defendant. State ex rel. Romley v. Superior Court, 184 Ariz. 223, 227 ( App. 1995).

As the Arizona Supreme Court noted in In re Petrie, 154 Ariz. 295, 299-300 (Ariz. 1987), the relationship is determined by looking at the parties’ conduct. For example, is there evidence that “… the party sought and received advice and assistance from the attorney in matters pertinent to the legal profession….” and what was the expectation of the client.

Here there is no dispute that the Defendant received legal advice and assistance from civil deputies within the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The inquiry does not end here however. The test is a subjective one and requires this Court to look “…to the nature of the work performed and the circumstances under which the confidences were divulged….” In re Petrie, supra. A reasonable person in the Defendant’s position when soliciting legal advice and assistance from the civil deputies about business ventures that could be conflicts of interest and/or would be reportable on the elected official’s financial disclosure statements would have been aware that the Maricopa County Attorney is also a prosecuting agency in addition to acting as the legal advisor for the Board of Supervisors. This is not a situation where the Defendant first engaged a private attorney for legal assistance, divulged confidences and later was prosecuted by the same attorney on the same matters. It was not reasonable under the circumstances here for Defendant to expect that the Maricopa County Attorney was his attorney on all matters. The legal advice and assistance from the civil deputies related to Defendant’s role as a member of the Board of Supervisors. As Mr.Wolcott, the former civil deputy, pointed out, the individual legal assistance was only given to individual members as necessary to further the business of the Board of Supervisors, the County Attorney’s client.

There was an attorney-client relationship created but it was limited in scope. This hybrid or limited scope attorney-client relationship does not given the same protections one would expect from representation by private counsel. The confidences divulged to the civil deputies were not used to obtain an indictment against the Defendant. Unlike the situation before the Honorable Gary Donahoe in 462 GJ 350, the County Attorney here is not attempting to use privileged communications with its client, the Board of Supervisors, or investigating the client’s (the Board of Supervisors) activities upon which it gave legal advice.

This Court is not convinced that the type of attorney-client relationship created between Defendant and the Maricopa County Attorney would disqualify the County Attorney from appearing before the Grand Jury to present evidence of criminal activity by Defendant so long as no confidences were divulged. The Motion to Dismiss is denied.

Contact Phoenix DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Joshua Davidson today if you are facing criminal charges in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Categories : Criminal Law, Politics
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Jun
11

Lawsuit brought by sheriff and county attorney dismissed

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A superior court judge granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the maricopa county board of supervisors and dismissed a well publicized lawsuit in which the sheriff and the county attorney sought $24 million in special funds the encumbered by the Board.  The Court issued a lengy writted decision which included the following discussion of the legal claims asserted by the Board of Supervisors:

Defendants disagree and challenge the Plaintiffs’ arguments on a number of fronts. First, they claim that each of the encumbered funds is a special revenue fund, not a custodial or fiduciary fund, and that the Legislature is free to alter their use by enacting any new law so long
as it is constitutional. In passing the Bill, the Legislature altered the use and purpose of the encumbered funds, thereby allowing the funds to be used by the County to meet its obligations to the State. Because the Bill provided that counties could transfer the specified amounts from “any source of county revenue designated by the county,” the Bill was a reconciliation Bill, not a general appropriations law, and the Board’s decision to encumber these statutory funds was legal. To that end, because these statutory funds are public funds, they are subject to the Legislature’s power to amend their appropriation.

Second, Defendants argue that both the Sheriff’s Dept. and County Attorney have previously taken positions in another matter concerning the transfer to the State of over $2 million from one of the encumbered funds (the County Sheriff’s Inmate Services Fund) that is wholly inconsistent with the position now being asserted on the same issue in this case. Specifically, the 2008 Legislature passed the HURF Act, which required the County to pay the State $4,681,991, computed based on the distribution of the Highway Revenue Formula (“HURF”). The HURF Act contained the same provision which allowed the Board to take monies from any source of county revenues designated by the county in order to satisfy the Act’s legislative mandate.  Before the Board had to make decisions on which sources of monies could be utilized to meet the requirements of the HURF Act, the Sheriff’s Office asked the Board to transfer over $2 million from the Inmate Services Fund, which is one of the statutory funds that Plaintiffs argue in our case can’t be used for any purpose other than the purpose authorized by the fund’s enabling statute. Moreover, Defendants argue that the County Attorney’s Office approved the legality of encumbering this money from the Inmate Services Fund as partial payment for the
County’s liability under the HURF Act. In other words, the Plaintiffs, just a few months before filing this lawsuit on grounds that such a transfer was illegal because it sought to spend money from these statutory funds in derogation of the specific and limited purpose for which these funds can be used, requested that the Board approve the payment mechanism they now challenge.

Third, Defendants argue that the County Attorney should be precluded from bringing the claims asserted as it essentially equates to a lawyer suing his own client for an act he approved. The County Attorney is the Board’s legal advisor. In this case, the County Attorney, without seeking or receiving a waiver to bring the action, has sued the Board (its client) for encumbering these statutory funds in order to fulfill the mandated contributions to the State despite having previously approved an identical transfer last August in another matter. Defendants contend that the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit such a suit by an attorney against a client under these circumstances.

Fourth, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs lack standing as they cannot establish a distinct and palpable injury, only a speculative fear of some injury that could possibly happen in the future. Further, Defendants argue that no harm has occurred because the Board of Supervisors simply followed the law set forth by the Legislature and, in doing so, at all times acted legally.

Fifth, Defendants assert that neither Plaintiff has the power to bring this suit under the law. The Sheriff is not a jural entity and lacks statutory authority to file such an action. The County Attorney also lacks standing to bring such an action in his own name, under the Declaratory Judgments Act, or under A.R.S. §11-641(B). A.R..S. §11-641(B) only applies to cases where a board of supervisors acts without legal authority, which Defendants contend is not the case here. Otherwise, it is the Board of Supervisors, not the County Attorney, that is vested with the power to direct and control the prosecution and defense of suits to which the County is a
party. Further, 11-641(B) creates power to seek injunction or refund of an illegal payment of money, and Defendants contend there is no “payment” of public funds in the legislation at issue.

Additionally, Defendants assert that nothing in the Declaratory Judgments Act, A.R.S. §12-1831, et seq., confers upon either Plaintiff the ability to sue in their official capacities, especially where neither Plaintiff can establish concrete real interests at stake. The statutes creating these funds make no mention of the Plaintiffs’ right to exclusively manage or spend money in the funds or establishes for Plaintiffs’ benefit any irrevocable entitlement to those funds. Moreover, The Board of Supervisors voted to transfer monies in accounts other than the six the Plaintiffs complain of. Since Plaintiffs are not authorized to use or control funds from those other accounts, they have no “right” in such funds and cannot seek declaratory relief concerning the propriety of transferring them. The State also argues that in no event can it be sued by Plaintiffs for declaratory relief since Count Two only alleges that the Board’s acts were illegal and seeks a declaratory judgment only against the Board.

Sixth, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ claims are barred by laches as Defendants have waited until late in the fiscal year, with resulting great prejudice to Defendants, to change their position regarding the Board’s encumbrance of a statutory fund to fulfill the mandated legislative contribution. In essence, by waiting until 75% of the budget year had been completed before suit was filed, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs have placed the County in the virtually impossible position of having to look to alternative funding sources at the very last minute for the full $24 million assessment.

Seventh, Defendants believe that this lawsuit is barred by A.R.S. §12-1802, the anti-injunction statute, which provides that an injunction shall not be granted to prevent the exercise of a public office in a lawful manner by the person in possession. The effect of the statute is to prevent courts from interfering by injunction with the exercise of a public official’s duties, if those duties were exercised in a lawful manner and within statutory authority.  Here, Defendants argue that because the Board acted lawfully in encumbering the statutory funds, the Court cannot interfere with the Board’s duties by granting injunctive relief. Otherwise, Plaintiffs would be able to effectively veto, through litigation, decisions by the Board that amount to a lawful exercise of their authority.
Eighth, Defendants argue that the Legislature has the power to change the statutes that established these special funds. This means the Legislature can, by its actions, repeal or modify the language of the statutes that limits use of the funds to a specific purpose. Thus, when the Bill authorized the County to encumber any source of County revenue to comply with the new statute, the Legislature for fiscal year 2008-2009 removed all previous limitations on the funds.
Otherwise, the language of the Act is unavoidably inconsistent with the enabling statutes establishing these funds. In that event, case law suggests that the more recent statute governs and the inconsistent language in the older statute is repealed.

Lastly, Defendants contend that the Bill did not violate Article 9, Section 22, which requires any act that imposes a new tax, fee, or assessment providing for a net increase in state revenue to be passed by a two-thirds supermajority of both houses of the Legislature. According to Defendants, the transfers being made in this matter did not create an increase in state revenue because all of the monies that the Board encumbered were previously lawfully obtained and deposited in these funds pursuant to Arizona statute and authority delegated to Maricopa County. 

Thus, the transfer of these monies operates merely as a reallocation of monies already within the possession of the State through Maricopa County and does not result in an increase in State revenues.

In ruling against the sheriff and county attorney, the court held:

The Court agrees with a number of Defendants’ arguments as to why summary judgment should be entered in their favor.  It is not necessary for purposes of this decision to discuss every argument raised by Defendants, but the Court will address those that in the Court’s view are case
dispositive and clearly entitle Defendants to judgment as a matter of law.

Categories : Politics
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May
23

Three months after his escape, convicted sex offender Adrian Cruz remains at large

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On February 18th, Adrian Cruz was left unattended and walked right out the front door of the Maricopa County Superior Court during a recess in his trial. Over three months have passed since his escape and he remains at large. Mr. Cruz was already serving a life sentence for a previous sex offense and was being imprisoned in the secure confines of the Arizona State Department of Corrections. His escape has drawn criticism not only towards the Sheriff’s Office, but also towards Andrew Thomas and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for bringing charges against Mr. Cruz in the first place.

Contact Phoenix Sex Crimes Attorney Joshua S. Davidson today if you or a loved one have been accused of child abuse, molestation, or other sex crimes offense in Arizona.

Categories : Criminal Law, Politics
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May
16

Presiding Criminal Judge relaxes position on releasing in custody defendants

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For several months, the sheriffs office has been failing to transport inmates for their court appearances in Maricopa County Superior Court.  Most defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges agree that the disruption created by this policy continues to be much more than a mere nuisance.  Not shockingly, the sheriffs office cites budgetary reasons, but many agree that the entire issue is politically motivated by the sheriffs office.  After all, the sheriff seems to have all the money he needs to enforce those accused of immigration violations, even though the federal government is responsible for enforcing those laws.

 

According to news reports, the presiding criminal judge had previously threatened to begin release those defendant who were not be transported to their court dates but has since backed away from taking that action.  Apparently, the court never intended on compromising public safety by taking such a drastic measure, but needed to raise the issue just to get the sheriff’s attention.  Whether the county taxpayers will need to continue funding the unnecessary court costs occasioned by the Sheriff’s gamesmanship remains to be seen.

Categories : Politics
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Dec
31

New license plate law to take effect

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Beginning Thursday, January 1, 2009, all motorists with Arizona license plates will be required to “maintain each license plate so it is clearly legible and so that the name of this state at the top of the license plate is not obscured.”  In other words, if you are one of the many drivers on the road with a bulky license plate frame, the police can pull you over if the word “Arizona” is even partially covered.  The new law, A.R.S. §28-2354, is viewed by many as unnecessary for public safety and unfair in that it applies only to in-state motorists.


The larger issue, however, is the real motive behind this new law.  Many Drug Defense Attorneys and Criminal Lawyers believe that the police supported this measure because it provides them the ability to legally justify the stop of a car in many cases where they otherwise would be unable to.  Under federal and state law, the police cannot conduct a traffic stop unless they have reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime or traffic violation has been committed.  If the police stop a car and find drugs or evidence of some other crime, the courts will generally suppress the finding if the initial stop was not legally justified.  This new measure now makes it that much easier for the police to conduct a questionable stop and sidestep issues pertaining to the constitutionality of their conduct.


Please contact Phoenix attorney Joshua Davidson if you have any questions about search and seizure law or wish to discuss your case.

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Dec
31

Maricopa County Attorney files lawsuit against Board of Supervisors

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A lawsuit has been filed by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  The law suit challenges the decision of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to obtain legal advise from private attorneys (instead of Thomas) while Thomas’ office is prosecuting Don Stapley – a sitting supervisor.  While most first year law students and even non-lawyers would recognize the inherent conflict of interest in this situation, Thomas is seeking a court order requiring the Board to continue using his office as their attorney.  In other words, Thomas seeks to criminally prosecute a member of the Board while he provides legal advice to the board on other pending matters.


Of course, this is not the first scandal regarding the county attorney’s office.  In the infamous “New Times” prosecution, Thomas hired his former employer to be a special prosecutor.  Notwithstanding the piles of taxpayer money that his ex boss collected for handling that matter, the case was ultimately dismissed by Thomas.


Mr. Stapley is accused of withholding information pertaining to his financial and real estate dealings.

Categories : Politics
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