Friday, October 26, 2007

Republic’s Agenda Is Weak, Wrong

by Barnett Lotstein, Special Assistant, Maricopa County Attorney

There it is - out in the open for all to see.

Since The Arizona Republic Editorial Board has failed in its mission to excuse the criminal conduct of illegal immigrants in the court of public opinion (see recent polls relating overwhelming public support for enforcement of laws targeting illegal immigrants by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio), they’ve gone to a new strategy: vilifying elected officials like Thomas and Arpaio to deflect attention from their pro-illegal immigration agenda.

The misstatements and untruths in The Republic’s lengthy editorial on Thursday (”Thomas’ pet bully”) are too numerous to respond to in the space granted for this reply. But I will do my best.

Far from declaring a “war on the judiciary,” the County Attorney’s Office enjoys professional relationships with virtually all members of the county judiciary. Our prosecutors handle more than 40,000 felony cases a year before Superior Court judges and commissioners. Sometimes the judges agree with our positions, sometimes not. We respect the independence of the judiciary to make decisions even when we disagree with them.

However, Andrew Thomas acted properly in speaking out when certain judges and judicial officers refused to enforce Proposition 100, which ended the right to bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious felonies, and which was approved by 78 percent of voters last year. Had Thomas not informed the public of the courts’ repeated refusal to enforce Prop 100, this ballot measure still would not be enforced in Maricopa County. Eventually, in a historic rebuke to the Maricopa County courts, all three branches of state government - the Legislature, Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona Supreme Court - had to unite this year to pass reforms ensuring that Maricopa County courts finally complied with this reform.

Even The Republic admits in its editorial that the Maricopa County courts refused to enforce Prop 100. Yet, The Republic gives no credit to Thomas for spearheading the difficult fight to ensure compliance. He did so even though it was at great personal and professional risk, knowing that the same judges resisting the reform would rule on his office’s cases.

Incredibly, the whole thrust of The Republic’s editorial is to pillory Thomas for holding accountable the same judges who, as The Republic admits, sought to thwart the will of the people.

The editorial’s description of Phoenix attorney Dennis Wilenchik as a “bully” for aggressively advocating on behalf of the County Attorney’s Office was both wrong and unoriginal (the writer, used the same term in describing J.D. Hayworth last year).

It takes an attorney with tremendous guts to go into a courtroom and make the case that a judge is acting in a biased fashion. If being an aggressive attorney and advocating with passion the cause of your client makes one a “bully,” then this characterization applies to many of the most successful and effective attorneys in our community.

The Republic opposes Prop. 100, the new employer sanctions law and virtually any meaningful crackdown on illegal immigration, while advocating blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants as the price for effective enforcement of our immigration laws. It’s obvious that The Republic’s frustration at having their pro-illegal immigration agenda rejected by the citizens of Arizona has led many of its writers to lash out at the only public officials willing to enforce the law, Thomas and Arpaio.

We at the County Attorney’s Office will not be intimidated from enforcing those laws enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor regarding illegal immigration.

No amount of name-calling or personal attacks will cause us to ignore our oath to uphold the law, notwithstanding the efforts of pro-illegal immigration apologists in the media who are rapidly losing credibility with the public.

The following editorial appeared in the Arizona Republic on Sunday, October 21st.

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