Don Stapley Case: Court Rejects Motion to Change Judge; Prosecutor Denied "Unusual Request" for Judge Interview
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge today rejected a bid by County Attorney Andrew Thomas to change a judge in the politically loaded criminal case of County Supervisor Don Stapley.
Thomas (pictured) feels retired Judge Kenneth Fields, assigned to the Stapley case, is biased against Thomas.
New Times has also learned that one of the prosecutors handling the Stapley case for Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon, has been slapped down by the court's presiding judge for circumventing normal court procedures to get a personal interview with the judge about the reason Fields was assigned to the case.
The Aubuchon request is the latest aberration by authorities involved in the Stapley case. As New Times reported last week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's chief deputy was accused by court officials of bending the typical lines of communication between law enforcement and the judicial system in a criminal case.
In a letter from Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell to Aubuchon, obtained through a records request by New Times, Mundell states she's never heard of such an unusual request in all her years in the legal field. The request wasn't even a legitimate legal motion, which is one reason Mundell rejected it.
The judge adds that this was Aubuchon's second "informal" request: Mundell refers to a December 8 letter (included in the linked PDF above) in which Aubuchon asked the criminal court administrator whether the assignment of Fields to the Stapley case followed normal procedures.
Don Stapley ought to feel slightly less worried if Aubuchon is going to end up as the prosecutor in this case. As previously reported in this blog, Aubuchon has lost several high-profile cases for Thomas.
As far as Thomas' motion to get Fields kicked off the case because of alleged bias, Judge Anna Baca points out in her ruling that Thomas hasn't disclosed any purported evidence of bias. Her ruling essentially says Thomas can't simply claim he thinks Fields is biased -- he has to give some kind of reason.
Baca is giving Thomas until December 22 to come up with something. We'll be surprised if he does. -- Ray Stern