Marikafka County, Arizona: Now With More Kafka!


Freelance journalist Nick Martin has an update on Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff's Deputy Adam Stoddard, who last October was caught on video swiping a file in open court from defense attorney defense attorney Joanne Cuccia.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe held a hearing on the matter, and on Tuesday ordered Stoddard to hold a press conference to apologize. It's a weak and odd way of admonishing Stoddard for such a brazen trespass on attorney-client privilege (not to mention Stoddard's arguable violation of a number of other laws, rights, and rules of procedure).

But even that was too much for Stoddard's boss, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Wednesday it will be a cold day in Maricopa County before one of his officers apologizes for taking an attorney's confidential files…

"Superior Court judges do not order my officers to hold press conferences," Arpaio said in a news release. "I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held."

An attorney for the sheriff, Tom Liddy, went even further, saying it's unlikely Stoddard will go to jail for defying the judge's order. "Folks should not hold their breaths," he said.

But the sheriff's office, which runs the county jails, doesn't plan to defy the order outright. Liddy said the agency will challenge it in a higher court.

The attorney said the order violates Stoddard's rights to free speech.

The judge "cannot order somebody to lie," Liddy said. "Of course he's not sorry for doing his job…It's absurd on his face."

I hate to admit it, but Arpaio might have a point here. Not with respect to Stoddard's conduct, which was reprehensible, but with Judge Donahoe's order. You get the impression Donahoe was trying to duck any serious sanction. He knew he had to address the seriousness of Stoddard's actions, but didn't want to actually hold him in contempt (at the hearing, Donahoe emphasized the "fine line" he has to walk between honoring the officers who secure his courtroom and holding Stoddard accountable).

But by bizarrely ordering the obstinate Stoddard to hold a press conference, he probably just made the whole situation a lot worse.