Out-of-state bloggers beat me to it again. Bobby Frederick, Jeff Gamso, and Scott Greenfield write about how Judge Donahoe has refused to unseal the documents deputy Stoddard took from a defense lawyer’s file and how Sheriff Joe issued an inaccurate press release attacking Donahoe and has apparently refused to put deputies in the courtroom where all of this started. Also worth noting is the fact that two county supervisors with a supposed history of problems with Sheriff Joe have been indicted on numerous felony charges.
I don’t have much to add, as the absurdity of the situation here speaks for itself. We have elected a sheriff who thinks he has unlimited powers and a county attorney who seems to support him. The courts can’t control either of them, so they’re running wild.
From my perspective, it looks likes the judges here are cognizant of their lack of an army to fight the sheriff. Because of that, they either issue orders they expect he’ll follow or leave compliance up to someone else. Here, they made it so Sheriff Joe could say “fat chance” when they ordered Stoddard to do something, but Stoddard ultimately decided to follow the court’s order. Sheriff Joe appeared to stand strong, and the court’s power appeared intact. Clever compromise by the court, right? Unfortunately not.
The problem the courts have encountered is this: give the sheriff an inch and he’ll take a mile. The courts need to draw a line. They should have done that long ago. They need to order Sheriff Joe to do something then force him to comply when he refuses. Their willingness to appease him seems to have made him think he’s invincible.
It’s also made him unbelievably popular, which is why he may continue to get away with this kind of stuff. As I’ve said before, I can’t even convince my clients that what Sheriff Joe does is wrong. They know he made up statutes to fight illegal immigration and lied about sentences to make Donahoe look bad. They don’t care. They like him because he’s tough and uncompromising. Usually, someone else has to suffer. Without clear boundaries and a standoff between Sheriff Joe and the courts, maybe one with the National Guard backing the courts, this is probably never going to end.
UPDATE: Although it seemed this couldn’t get more surreal, right after I posted this, Nick Martin mentioned on Twitter that criminal charges were being filed against Donahoe by the county attorney. Sure enough, according to the New Times and the East Valley Tribune, Donahoe is being charged with hindering prosecution. There will be a press conference at noon regarding the charges.