Home » From The Readers » AZ Viewpoint: Legal Ethics and Public Corruption In Arizona

AZ Viewpoint: Legal Ethics and Public Corruption In Arizona

Jack Levine

Sedona AZ (January 7, 2017)Is it “Sui Generis” or a National Pattern?

Over a number of years, two of Arizona’s largest law firms have gradually taken over control of the state’s two largest public utilities by placing their firm members, former firm members and relatives on their governing boards and executive offices, while at the same time each serving as their law firms. It is also a matter of some irony that while these law firms were taking control of their public utility clients, members of one of these law firms served for many years as the State Bar’s Chief Ethics Counsel.

When a law firm controls a public utility’s governing board and executive offices, this results in the creation of a “captive client” who is powerless to make independent decisions concerning what law firm should represent them, what legal services they require and, most importantly for the utility’s ratepayers, the size of the law firm’s legal bills. Not only is this an egregious ethical violation, but there is concern that excessive legal fees paid to these law firms over the many years that these arrangements have existed may have amounted to billions of dollars. If these practices did not exist, the cost of water and electricity would be considerably less for consumers than they are now. Are these practices limited only to Arizona or are the financial incentives for large law firms to impose their control over our public utilities so great that these practices exist everywhere?

Another unethical scheme that has long existed in Arizona that has gone unchallenged and, may also be ignored in other states, has been the practice of large law firms contributing bundled campaign contributions from firm members, relatives and friends to political candidates who, when elected, control government agencies at the state, county and municipal levels. These contributing law firms are then generously rewarded by successful candidates through the referral of all of their agency’s outside legal business to the law firm. Such “pay to play” schemes also have many of the earmarks of a “captive client” relationship between the contributing law firm and the government agency, because the head of the government agency who has received gifts of campaign money is less likely to look out for the interests of taxpaying citizens.

SedonaEye.com article author, Jack Levine, has been an active member of the Arizona Bar since 1964. A NYU School of Law graduate, he served as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was a member of the State Bar of Arizona’s Board of Governors from 2011-2013. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Arizona State Bar Association, the Maricopa County Bar Association, the Arizona Association for Justice and the Arizona Employment Lawyers Association. He is a past Chair of the Trial Practice Section of the State Bar of Arizona, a past President of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association and was founder and initial Director of its Continuing Legal Education program.

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  1. JJ says:

    Corruption is rampant in Sedona as well. To date approximately 18 million dollars of tax payer dollars has been gifted to special interests in Sedona. The primary recipient of those dollars is the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. Sedona has adopted an ordinance paying this year alone 2016-2017 2.01million dollars to the chamber a private regional membership based organization for a marketing contract benefiting only their members. Their membership is based approximately 75% outside the sedona city limits. There are no independent audits or independent performance tracking for those monies being gifted to the chamber. The board members of this non profit organization have lobbied the city for those funds. The chamber’s tax returns are laughable. Sedona is known to attack any persons or entities that speak up about these clearly illegal practices. That is why I did not put my actual identity. I would be willing to speak to you under a controlled environment.

  2. J. Rick Normand says:

    @Mr. Jack Levine,

    Knowing your disclosure limitations, could you at least disclose, without mentioning names or principals, whether the two law firms to which you refer are indigenous to Arizona or are from other states but licensed to practice law in Arizona?


  3. david says:

    Thanks for the up date, of course this is nothing new, I believe it began in the 60’s when utilities started lobbing for rate increases, issuing re-callable bonds and issuing more stock of the utility company, dishing shareholders for higher executive payout, that and the repel of the Glass-Steagall Act (banking Act of 1933) has over the years re-distributed the wealth too the upper 1 to 5 % of the country population, leaving the rest of the population the bones. “Pay to play” is nothing new as you point out, the question is…..what is anybody doing about it? “Greed is always at the head of the table”. thanks, Jack for bringing this to Sedona Eye..

  4. @ JJ says:

    So when you say: “The chamber’s tax returns are laughable.”

    What exactly does that mean???? I’m sure that you want people to believe you so tell us what you mean by that.

  5. Mark Fairall says:

    FAIRALL FACEBOOK 02/04/2017

    The State Bar of Arizona is the most expensive attorneys’ quasi-union in the United States. It has a mandatory membership fee that soon to be over $700 a year, most expensive level, for the 13,000 members. Compare that to the State Bar of New York which has a voluntary membership fee of $275, most expensive level, for its 74,000 members. The State Bar of Arizona has very little regulatory control and is a corrupt attorney association because it has it has its own political agenda and favors attorneys who are “Friends of the Bar.”

    Representative Anthony Kern (R-20) has introduced HB 2295 and HB 2300 to fix the broken and corrupt State Bar. The bills would: make membership voluntary, open records to public meetings, and increase oversight with an independent audit. This would make the Bar earn membership by serving all lawyers and the public equally plus it would eliminate the present “Good-Old-Boy” method of business of partiality while ignoring others.

    Governor Ducey was ready to sign this last year when the Bill passed the House but it stalled in the Senate. This is the year that the State Bar of Arizona will be cleaned out and better serve all Arizonans.

    COMMENTS: We are shocked by the State Bar of Arizona’s recent decisions but not surprised. We wrote an internet report about the Broken State Bar of Arizona in August 2016. We were retaliated against by the State Bar of Arizona.

    We filed a complaint against (deleted by editor), who was the attorney for Sun Grove Resort Village (SGRV), for (deleted by editor) and assisted the former SGRV (deleted by editor). (deleted by editor) handles 10% of the Arizona slumlord evictions and is (deleted by editor). The Bar “Refused to Read” our attorney complaint against (deleted by editor) on 09/23/2016.

    We filed our complaint against (deleted by editor) who sued us and attempted to foreclose on our home. (deleted by editor) failed to properly notify us of the lawsuit and failed to allow us the required 30-day FDCPA notice to verify the documents and dispute the debt. The Bar “Refused to Open” that complaint and on 09/23/2016 said it was a proper lawsuit. No, it was an illegal lawsuit because the person that signed the paper to start the lawsuit was (deleted by editor), whose (deleted by editor) when SGRV went bankrupt. (deleted by editor) the court, us, and five other defendants (including the US Government-HUD).

    We have filed criminal charges with the Arizona Attorney General against (deleted by editor), former SGRV investor, and (deleted by editor), debt collector attorney. We have filed a Public Corruption Complaint with the FBI and Department of Justice against the State Bar of Arizona.

  6. Web Hosting says:

    I later found out from people in the Sedona area that this (deleted by editor) regularly took groups to the site, charging them large sums of money for a couple of hours of spiritual experience. Commercial activities of this type are legal only under a use permit issued by the Forest Service. Issuing permits helps provide the Service with some control of the concentration and kind of activities that take place, and recently provisions have been made for collecting fees which can be used for conservation and general maintenance of sites.

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