Case Detail
CitationStapley v. Pestalozzi, 733 F.3d 804 (9th Cir. 2013)
CrimeNon-violent, other
Pros. First NameAndrew
Pros. Last NameThomas
Trial Year2009
BodyAppeals court
OpinionThe Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied absolute immunity to two former Arizona prosecutors, Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon. Donald Stapley, a former member of Maricopa County's board of supervisors, sued two the prosecutors and their spouses, asserting claims under § 1983 and state law for wrongful institution of civil proceedings, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unlawful search, equal protection and other constitutional violations, and conspiracy to violate § 1983. Stapley alleged the prosecutors initiated a frivolous federal civil racketeering (“RICO”) suit against him in order to harass him. "The suit was part of an ongoing 'political war' in Maricopa County between the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and others. . . A disciplinary panel of the Arizona State Bar investigated Thomas and Aubuchon related to the above incidents. The panel found 'overwhelming' evidence that [Thomas and Aubuchon] had abused their power and 'spen[t] the public's money for their cause célèbre.' Noting that the 'harm' done by Thomas and Aubuchon 'to the public, individuals, and the profession was stunning on every front,' the panel ordered them disbarred. . .With respect to the RICO complaint, the bar panel noted that Thomas and Aubuchon had filed suit despite numerous warnings from other MCAO attorneys and from outside counsel that the suit 'would be a misuse of the law' and that 'sanctions for a frivolous lawsuit would likely be imposed.' The panel determined that the complaint, in addition to being'“unintelligible or nonsensical' in places, did not state facts sufficient to support any of its legal claims. The panel also found that Thomas and Aubuchon made no effort to gather evidence to support the suit, that they lacked authority under Arizona law to file the suit, and that the suit caused severe emotional damages to the RICO defendants." In denying Thomas and Aubuchon's motion to dismiss because of prosecutor immunity, the Ninth Circuit stated: "the federal RICO statute does not provide any special authorization for county attorneys to file civil RICO suits. County attorneys may file civil RICO suits under 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c), but they have no status as plaintiffs different from private citizens." Thus, "[d]efendants are not entitled to absolute immunity because their actions were not sufficiently “'analogous to those of a prosecutor."
Determination Year2013
Misconduct TypePre-Trial -- Other
GEN: Extrajudicial
GEN: Other
C/S EffectVoluntary withdrawal of charges
Pros. Misc. ReportedYes
Sanction TypeDisbarment
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