Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander Hearing - Frequently Asked Questions

September 8, 2011

The State Bar of Arizona serves the public and enhances the legal profession by promoting competency, ethics and professionalism of its members and enhancing the administration of Justice. The Arizona Supreme Court has oversight of the State Bar, however, the State Bar is not a government organization. It is supported through member dues and not tax payer dollars. The Supreme Court adopts professional standards, which practicing attorneys in Arizona must adhere to and the State Bar investigates compliance with these standards. 
 
Why is the State Bar investigating Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander?
The Bar initiated an investigation as a result of complaints it received from the public as well as information that came from a February 24, 2010 ruling by Arizona Superior Court Judge John Leonardo. In a letter dated March 2, 2010, Bar CEO/ED John Phelps asked the Supreme Court to consider an outside investigator to avoid any potential conflict of interest. As a result, Colorado Supreme Court Regulation Counsel John Gleason was appointed by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca Birch to handle the case. 
 
What are the charges?
Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander face 33 separate ethical violations ranging from conflict of interest to prosecutorial misconduct and abuse of the federal process.   
 
How long will the hearing last?
The hearing, which will start September 12, 2011, is expected to last 25-45 working days. It will take place at the Arizona Supreme Court, located at 1501 W. Washington. It is a public hearing and will also be streamed live on the Supreme Court's web site (www.azcourts.gov). 
 
How much money has been spent on the investigation?
As of September 7, 2011, the investigation has cost the State Bar $282,573.49. By court rule, the State Bar is responsible for the cost of the investigation. That expense is covered by State Bar dues, no tax money has been used to pay for the investigation.  Some portion of the costs and expenses of the investigation may be recovered by the State Bar. 
 
Who is hearing the case?
Disciplinary hearings are presided over by a three member hearing panel. One member is the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, who is an employee of the Arizona Supreme Court and the other two members are volunteers from the community. The volunteers are not compensated for their participation as a hearing officer. This panel consists of Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil, Scottsdale attorney Mark Sifferman and the Rev. John C.N. Hall, who is the rector of an Episcopal church in Chandler. Sifferman and Rev. Hall are volunteers. The panel will determine if there were violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and if so, it will also determine the appropriate sanctions. An alternate panel member has also been selected. Attorney Martin Zachreson will be present for the entire hearing. All parties have agreed that Mr. Zachreson will replace any of the three panel members should circumstances arise which prevent them from continuing.
 
What are the possible sanctions?
Should it be determined that the lawyers have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, they could each face sanctions, including reprimand, suspension, disbarment, or a lesser sanction of admonition or probation. Traditionally, the imposition of sanctions has been guided by the American Bar Association Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions. Sanctions, if ordered, would be final unless appealed to the Supreme Court. 
 
Did the State Bar's Board of Governors influence the case?
No, the State Bar's Board of Governors has no direct involvement in lawyer regulation and cannot direct action on any case. The only way to initiate a formal case against a lawyer is by a probable cause order authorizing the filing of a formal complaint. At the time the Thomas/Aubuchon/Alexander case advanced through the system only one probable cause panelist was needed to make a determination about whether probable cause existed to move forward with a formal complaint. The Supreme Court appointed former Justice William E. Jones to act as the independent Probable Cause Panelist who ultimately entered an order authorizing the filing of a formal complaint against Thomas/Aubuchon/Alexander. 
 
If you wish to view documents in this case:
Formal complaint filed with the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/9/Press%20Releases/Complaint%20PDJ2011-9002.pdf 
 
Respondents' Answers
Andrew Thomas: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/9/Press%20Releases/Thomas%20Answer3_16_11.pdf
Lisa Aubuchon: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/9/Press%20Releases/Aubuchon%20Answer3_10_11.pdf
Rachel Alexander: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/9/Press%20Releases/Alexander's%20Answer%20Filed3_15_11.pdf 
 
Media Contact:
Rick DeBruhl, Chief Communications Officer |Phone: (602) 340-7335, Mobile: (602) 513-6385 |Email: rick.debruhl@staff.azbar.org