Carlos Mendoza, Disgraced Justice of the Peace, Is Back

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Carlos Mendoza is back? Say it ain't so!

Carlos Mendoza, the justice of the peace who "retired" under questionable circumstances in May 2008, appears to be exploring another run for office.

Mendoza filed paperwork in December suggesting that his long dormant campaign-finance committee is again active, according to county records. The paperwork indicates that Mendoza has yet to collect any contributions, but is planning to run for the same office he held between January 2003 and his 2008 "retirement" -- justice of the peace in the Downtown Justice Court.

Mendoza didn't return a call for comment Monday.

Justices of the Peace, unlike Maricopa County Superior Court judges, are elected. And, unlike superior court judges, they don't even have to be lawyers. (Mendoza, for one, isn't.)

But we can't help but imagine that -- even if he technically qualifies for a justice of the peace position -- the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct is not going to be happy to see Mendoza's resurrection.

 
And that's because Mendoza, despite the official lines about "retirement" and "severe medical condition" at the time he left office two years ago, was basically forced out.

The disciplinary counsel for the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct had filed a formal statement of charges against Mendoza in February 2008, alleging three major violations. Those charges were withdrawn only when Mendoza agreed to retire, according to a stipulation New Times obtained at the time.

Mendoza was accused of the following:

* Challenging another judge to a fistfight

* Giving false testimony under oath in his attempts to get an injunction against harassment issued against a tenant he'd quarreled with. (Mendoza claimed the tenant had made gang signs and flipped him off in the presence of other court personnel, yet other witnesses flatly contradicted him.)

* Failing to disclose half a dozen properties he owned on the financial-disclosure forms mandated for public officials from 2002 to 2004. In 2005 to 2008, he failed to list nearly 20 properties each year.

Based on those allegations, the commission's disciplinary counsel had urged the commission to censure, suspend, or remove Mendoza from office. Before the commission could act, though, Mendoza agreed to retire -- and the charges were dropped.

We wonder if the commission will revisit the charges now that Mendoza's potentially throwing his hat back into the ring. Today is a holiday, so we couldn't get in touch with anyone, but we'll let you know if we hear anything.

One final note.

Mendoza, bizarrely, has somehow ended up as a key witness in a strange case that Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas took up last fall.

Back in 2005, a boxing manager named Joe Diaz accused a promoter of kiting a $5,000 check to him. To support Diaz's claims that the case was mishandled, Mendoza claimed that County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox's husband, Earl, personally visited his chambers to advocate on behalf of the promoter.

Mendoza confessed to dropping an arrest warrant issued for the promoter at Earl Wilcox's request -- which, frankly, sounds like another thing the Judicial Conduct Commission might want to look into.

But the case -- despite Diaz's best attempts to get publicity and prosecution -- was dead until last fall, when Thomas suddenly turned his sights toward the county supervisors. At that point, the promoter that Earl Wilcox once tried to protect was finally indicted for the bounced check.

Yet there still haven't been any charges filed against Earl Wilcox for his role in stopping the original warrant, much less Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.

One possible reason: Mendoza hardly makes a trustworthy witness.

Not only are there those embarrassing bits about lying about his tenant and challenging another judge to a fistfight (wtf?!?!), but the disciplinary counsel's filing makes it clear that Mendoza may well have a serious financial disclosure problem of his own. That's exactly the same offense that the County Attorney's Office used to indict Supervisor Wilcox last December -- and her colleague Don Stapley a year before that

Inquiring minds might surely wonder why Carlos Mendoza has so far skated. Is County Attorney Thomas protecting Mendoza because the former justice of the peace came forward with such damning evidence about the Wilcoxes, at a time when Thomas really wanted to embarrass them? Or is Thomas really only interested in using the financial-disclosure forms as a cudgel against his political enemies, even as his allies fill them out incorrectly and get a free pass?

Hmmm...

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