Andy Thomas, the Maricopa County Attorney, is asking the Arizona State Supreme Court [PDF] to declare him above the obligatory ethical standards of his profession. He wants to be declared exempt from the system of self-governance by which the ethical standards of the legal profession are enforced under the supervision and authority of the courts. Because he was elected, Andy claims to be untouchable, unquestionable and exempt from investigation by the state Bar.
His argument boils down to the fairly absurd idea that he is both the embodiment of the state and the attorney for the state; thus, everything he does in his job is protected by the attorney-client or executive privileges. He's claiming to be both client and attorney! Thus, even if there is an allegation that he has violated the ethics of his profession by his conduct in office, he asserts he cannot be held to account by a mere jury of his professional peers (which is an odd thing for a prosecutor to believe in...).
Andy has fallen victim to peculiar movement-conservative meme that posits elected officials are only accountable to the electorate, and then only at elections, and cannot be thwarted, investigated, or in any way made accountable by any other power. This is the fascist electoral theory of democracy and it has become a common virus circulating in certain conservative circles these days. I call it the "Fascist Disease". The most obvious symptom of the disease is criminal investigation, indictment, and conviction - as the disease causes its victims to believe themselves above the law. Many conservatives are showing these quite obvious symptoms these days.
Democrats aren't doing much to stem the spread of the outbreak, unfortunately. They allow a terribly virulent infection to fester at the heart of our political system, and it is spreading the contagion like wildfire: the Bush Administration, despite being a pack of criminals who have declared themselves above the law, continue to rule despite their obvious derangement by the disease. The Congress refuses to quarantine the infection by impeachment, and the disease is thereby encouraged to spread. Now it has claimed poor Andy Thomas.
The Arizona Bar, in their response to Andy's brief [PDF], use a nice analogy for Andy's theory about his immunity to the Bar's disciplinary system. The Bar's disciplinary system is essentially inquisitorial in nature: they function as both the police (investigating allegations of ethical violations instead of crimes) and the court (hearing evidence and making a decision on the merits). When the Bar receives a complaint, or creates a complaint based on press or court information, it first investigates to see if there is cause to continue taking evidence on the complaint. This is called screening and most complaints die a deserved death at this juncture.
Andy is asking the Court to take several complaints away from the Bar, even before a screening investigation begins. He doesn't want the Bar even to have the power to investigate complaints against him: it's as if he's a defense attorney asking an appeals court to take a case away from the police investigating a complaint and declare the police can't investigate the defendant - at all- for any reason - ever. It's about as bad an infection of Fascist Disease as I've ever diagnosed. Not only does Andy claim to be above the law, but he's above investigation by cops on his beat.
It's typical the fascist disease that its victims believe that the mystical power the electorate has invested in them cannot be abused, no matter how it's used. Well, we know better. Sorry, Andy, the law does constrain you; and the Bar, of which he is a member, has the power to discipline even a high-muckety office-holder like Andy, or Terry Goddard, or Janet Napolitano.
The Bar system is designed to screen complaints that haven't any merit. Already, 4 of the 7 complaints which Andy is asking the Court to take away from the Bar have been dismissed for lack of merit by the Bar. But the Bar is sensitive to any impression that the discipline process may not be perfectly objective and so they have offered to appoint a special master to handle the remaining complaints. If Andy was really so sure that these remaining complaints lack any merit, why not just let independent special master do his or her job? Or perhaps the problem is that Andy knows that these remaining complaints - specifically those stemming from his behavior during the New Times Affair - have a bit too much merit to risk allowing any objective screening of them? Perhaps the cop on the ethics beat will notice how badly Andy screwed up in his zeal to punish the newspaper hounding his buddy, Sheriff Joe "Biggest Joke of a Sheriff in America" Arpaio?
I won't presume to prejudge whether the complaints against Thomas and his bestest Kahuna, Dennis Wilenchik, have any merit (oh, who am I kidding? These guys are as ethical as two-dollar whores...) or whether the Bar's independent special master will even proceed with them (I sure hope so...). But I will eat my hat if the Supreme Court grants Andy an endorsement of his Fascist Disease-inspired fever dreams of unchecked power.