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Federal court weighs merits of special Arizona probation programs

By Howard Fischer

San Francisco, CA – Federal judges hearing a case today questioned the legal right of
county attorneys to sue the state or its employees. Arizona
Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas sued the presiding
Superior Court judge, saying special probation programs she set
up for Spanish speakers and Native Americans are
unconstitutional. But a trial judge threw out the lawsuit, saying
Thomas doesn't have standing to sue. At a hearing before the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals, Thomas' attorney, Michael Garvin said
his client should be entitled to ask federal judges to intervene.

(It can't possibly be that this court would ban a lawsuit if the
county said 'from now on, the county attorney will lose every
case,' or that 'every white defendants will go free.')

But attorney Scot Claus said the county judge he represents is a
state employee and that only the state attorney general can sue a
state employee in federal court. He said Thomas, facing a tough
reelection campaign, knows that.

(He is doing it improperly. He is doing it without authority. And
he is doing it, apparently, in a fit of pique to satisfy some
personal and, truth be told, some patently political motive.)

Thomas said he simply wants the appellate judges to give him his
day in court to argue the legality of the special courts.

In San Francisco, for Arizona Public Radio, this is Howard Fischer.