In their inquiry into alleged corruption in Maricopa County, sheriff’s investigators have begun this week to ask questions about the State Bar of Arizona, the agency that licenses every lawyer in the state.
Investigators asked at least one former judge to answer questions about whether he has worked with the State Bar to file complaints against Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a close ally of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
According to a letter [PDF] obtained Wednesday by the Phoenix New Times, the sheriff’s office asked former Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell to respond to questions about the bar and a number of ongoing county disputes by 5 p.m. today.
In a filing with the court, Campbell said he finds the sheriff’s request “unheard of and unethical” because he is also the defense attorney for Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who was indicted by Thomas last week on charges of fraud. Campbell said the questions would infringe on his attorney-client relationship with Wilcox.
“The letter and its request for an interview…represent nothing short of total disregard for the right to counsel,” Campbell said.
He also questioned the timing of the letter, with it arriving at his office on Tuesday just hours after he held a news conference to criticize Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio for their attack on the supervisor.
But perhaps more significant was the investigator’s questions about the State Bar, which has the power to investigate or sanction Thomas, the county’s chief prosecutor.
The questions come just days after an email was circulated in the Phoenix legal community calling for Thomas to be suspended from the State Bar for allegedly abusing his powers as a prosecutor.
On Wednesday, Rick DeBruhl, a spokesman for the bar, said sheriff’s investigators have not questioned any employees there or sent the agency similar letters. “We have not received a request for information, at least officially,” DeBruhl said.
He also said that the State Bar is currently not investigating Thomas in any matters related to Campbell, but DeBruhl declined to say whether the former judge had ever filed a complaint against the prosecutor.
The sheriff’s office refused to answer questions about whether the State Bar was now under investigation or what role it believes the agency has played in the ongoing case.
In recent weeks, the sheriff and county attorney have accused at least 12 high-ranking Maricopa County officials, including judges, elected board members and appointed officials, of engaging in a massive conspiracy against them. Most of officials also have a history of publicly criticizing the two men.
Three of those critics, including Wilcox, have since been charged with crimes.
The sheriff’s office responded to Campbell’s criticism on Wednesday afternoon, saying investigators still planned to interview him despite his complaints.
“Regardless whether Colin Campbell likes it or not, at the very least, he is a witness to the ongoing racketeering investigation and currently ongoing criminal investigations,” said Chief Deputy David Hendershott in a prepared statement.