When guys like Don Brandt, Jim Click, and Craig Barrett ask Arizona’s elected leaders to jump, some of them ask “how high?”
Arizona Public Service has got to have the biggest set of brass balls around.
The state’s largest utility actually tried to convince a judge to stall an investigation into whether it tried to buy itself a set of friendly utility regulars.
This, until after those regulators have a chance to vote on the utility’s request to raise its rates.
Who knew that audacity was spelled APS?
APS is still ignoring that subpoena
APS is widely believed to have secretly spent $3.2 million in 2014 to get Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little elected to the five-member Corporation Commission. Utility officials won’t confirm or deny the speculation, which is odd given that there is nothing illegal about secretly funding political campaigns in Arizona.
For the last 18 months, Commissioner Bob Burns has tried to get APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., to open the books on their 2014 campaign spending, so he can determine whether the utility might have “undue influence” on the commission that regulates utilities.
APS has fought Burns’ subpoenas and his fellow commissioners have backed APS at every turn.
Now Burns is asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley to force APS to comply with his subpoenas.
Public corruption takes all forms, and in Arizona it can be found on all levels of government. One of the most common forms of public corruption in Arizona these days is hidden under the cloak of prosecutorial discretion.
“Prosecutorial discretion refers to the fact that under American law, government prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute powers. A prosecuting attorney has power on various matters including those relating to choosing whether or not to bring criminal charges, deciding the nature of charges, plea bargaining and sentence recommendation.” – USlegal.com
To quote 19th century British politician, Lord Acton: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Because of the nearly absolute powers they wield, candidates for county attorney and state attorney general races rake in the big bucks from very powerful special interests. Those contributions, along with old alliances and associations can, and do, influence whether or not a criminal act is prosecuted.
Do Arizona lawyers really have lower ethical standards than lawyers in New York, Illinois, California and other states? Or is Arizona merely unique and not representative of the practice of law elsewhere?
Undeniably, our nation’s large law firms play a valuable role in our legal system by handling complex legal matters such as multinational corporate business transactions, IPO offerings, corporate mergers and acquisitions, patents and copyrights, international law, intellectual property rights, etc. However, due to the scope and magnitude of their work, large law firms also have the capacity to cause enormous harm when engaged in illegal or unethical conduct, either on their own behalf, or at the direction of unscrupulous clients.
Curiously, there are far more sole practitioners and small-firm lawyers who become the subject of disciplinary proceedings than big-firm lawyers. In addition to the possibility that big-firm lawyers may not be reporting unethical conduct among their own, one might also conclude that more sole practitioners and small-firm lawyers receive discipline for alleged ethical violations than big-firm lawyers because the ethical standards of big-firm lawyers may be higher than that of sole practitioners or small-firm lawyers. In one sense, this may be true because the large law firms generally do a better job of overseeing ethics among associates and frequently have “in-house” ethics counsel who “nip problems in the bud” before they become bar complaints. Also the big law firms carry malpractice insurance and are quicker to “lawyer up” to defend and litigate against complaints, while many sole practitioners and small-firm lawyers may not carry such insurance.
Also, a deeper exploration of this issue suggests that when firm-wide unethical conduct occurs in big law firms, it occurs as a matter of law firm policy and because of this may be of such enormous magnitude that for political, economic, social or other reasons, it has been totally ignored by the lawyer regulation system of the various state bar associations.
The role of large firm lawyer-lobbyists, raising substantial sums of money for members of state legislatures on behalf of clients seeking to influence a particular legislative agenda should be a matter of some ethical concern to the profession, not only in Arizona, but everywhere. In Arizona, we have also been occasionally treated to the spectacle of large law firms carrying on legislative lobbying activities for clients while their partners are, at the same time, active members of the legislative body they are seeking to influence.
Large firms’ “captive client” relationships
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.