Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nelson Record Suggests ACLU First Not Public Safety First; New Info in County Attorney Race

Thomas Condemns Nelson's "Sweetheart Deal" for ACLU
History of Nelson Support for ACLU Suggests Soft-on-Crime Organization Would Have Unprecedented Power and Influence in County Attorney's Office

From DPS Lawsuit to Prop 100 Litigation, Questions Abound

County Attorney candidate Tim Nelson's history of support for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) indicates the soft-on-crime organization could have unprecedented power and influence in the county prosecutor's office if Nelson becomes county attorney.

In a Nelson campaign press release on April 29, 2008, Nelson gushed he was "proud" to have been a lawyer for the ACLU.

But he failed to disclose-and actually misrepresented to at least one Valley newspaper- important facts about his relationship with the ACLU and a sweetheart deal he orchestrated to benefit his former client at the expense of law-abiding citizens.

While serving as counsel for Governor Janet Napolitano, Nelson approved the settlement of a racial-profiling lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS). The governor was a defendant in the action. As part of the controversial settlement, Nelson approved payment of $140,000 in attorney's fees to his former client, the ACLU. He did this even though there was no evidence of racial profiling by DPS troopers and the agency flatly denied engaging in that practice.

The settlement also required DPS to collect information on the race of the people they pull over and turn over the data to an advisory panel picked by the governor and the ACLU. What's more, DPS agreed that it could search vehicles only if the owner gave written consent to the search. This was a sweeping concession to the ACLU, one that courts never have required of law enforcement officers in the past.

Thomas called the federal litigation, Arnold v. DPS, a "typically frivolous ACLU lawsuit" and expressed disbelief that state tax dollars were paid out to appease the radical left-wing organization. Obvious questions surrounded the settlement agreement, some of which were voiced when it was announced. First, the lawsuit was settled after a federal judge had dismissed it, no explanation has been offered as to why the case was settled and why taxpayer money paid to the ACLU after it was dismissed, when there was no evidence to support the ACLU's claims.

One columnist also criticized the settlement at the time because it "does put the ACLU, a non- governmental entity, in a quasi-official oversight role." (Arizona Republic Bob Robb column, 8/6/06). Installing the ACLU, an infamous lobby for the rights of criminals, as an official regulator of the conduct of Arizona police officers apparently is without precedent in Arizona or any other state. Thomas called it "stunning that my opponent approved making the ACLU a judge of police officers' conduct on the job."

Thomas added, "This sweetheart deal for the ACLU was wrong in every possible way. The payout of $140,000 to the ACLU's lawyers, the establishment of the ACLU as a quasi-governmental entity regulating state police officers, and the unprecedented requirement of written consent for vehicle searches make clear that if elected, my opponent would practice ACLU politics at the County Attorney's Office."

Nelson has bragged that in the ACLU case against DPS, he "defended state police officers against allegations of racial profiling" (East Valley Tribune, 5/19/08). In fact, the opposite is true. Nelson rolled over and signed off on a settlement with numerous concessions, including compensation to his former client, the ACLU, without any evidence of racial profiling by DPS troopers. As an Assistant DPS Director said at the time, "We're adamant that our officers were not racial-profiling." (Arizona Republic, 2/3/05)

Thomas stated that Nelson's concealment of his role in this settlement, and his false claim that he "defended" DPS troopers in the matter, show Nelson is not only disingenuous but "would be a pawn in the hands of the ACLU if elected county attorney."

Just as troubling, the ACLU currently has a lawsuit pending against Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Thomas seeking to block enforcement of Proposition 100. A referendum written by the County Attorney's Office and passed by 78 percent of the voters in 2006, Prop 100 denied the right to bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious felonies. The ACLU has sued in federal court to overturn this measure (Lopez- Valenzuela v. Maricopa County).

Attorneys at the left-wing law firm Perkins Coie, which represents the illegal-immigrant plaintiffs in the case, are serving as co-counsel for the ACLU. Nelson is a former law partner at Perkins Coie, and its attorneys have contributed heavily to his campaign. Attorneys, spouses and staff at this firm have given $8,545 to date to the Nelson campaign.

"There's every reason to expect that if elected, Nelson will roll over and pay off the ACLU and its attorneys again in the Prop 100 litigation the same way he did for his former ACLU colleagues in the DPS case. If so, the will of the voters who approved Prop 100 will be nullified. And taxpayer money once again will be paid out in a frivolous case to an organization that consistently supports the rights of criminals over the rights of law-abiding citizens."

Nelson served as the lawyer of record for the ACLU in at least one case, in which he sued to overturn the City of Gilbert's proclamation of Bible Week in 1999.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Andrew Thomas, please contact Jason Rose at 602-791-4488 or Jim Sharpe at 602-363-4780.

Paid for by Andrew Thomas for County Attorney

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh (search) probably never expected the American Civil Liberties Union (search) to become one of his staunch supporters.

But the privacy rights group was on his side Monday when its Florida branch filed a "friend-of-court" motion on behalf of Limbaugh arguing state officials were wrong in seizing his medical records for their drug probe.

"For many people, it may seem odd that the ACLU has come to the defense of Rush Limbaugh," ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a released statement.

"But we have always said that the ACLU's real client is the Bill of Rights, and we will continue to safeguard the values of equality, fairness and privacy for everyone, regardless of race, economic status or political point of view," Simon said.

The ACLU contends that state law enforcement officers violated Limbaugh's privacy rights by taking possession of his medical records as part of their criminal investigation into the commentator's alleged "doctor-shopping" to feed his prescription-drug addiction.