Court: Attorneys not inherently qualified for office - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Court: Attorneys not inherently qualified for office

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Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011 11:19 am

There may be all sorts of reason not to elect an attorney to public office.

(Insert your favorite lawyer joke here.)

But the mere fact of being an attorney does not disqualify that person from becoming mayor or member of a city council, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected the arguments of Marshall Home that Jonathan Rothschild is ineligible to run for mayor of Tucson.

Home, who had also been a candidate himself in this year’s race before being disqualified, noted that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over members of the legal profession “as officers of the court.’’

That, he said, makes Rothschild part of the judicial branch of government. More to the point, it means he cannot constitutionally serve as a member of the legislative branch.

But Chief Justice Rebecca Berch said the fact lawyers have to answer to her court’s authority “does not invest an attorney with judicial power.’’ That power, Berch said, includes the ability to decide disputes, pronounce judgments and carry them out, something a mere lawyer does not have.

Home’s challenge is going to cost him. The high court ordered Home, who represented himself, to pay the legal fees of Rothschild and the Pima County Democratic Party, which he also had sued.

In imposing that penalty, Berch noted that Home has a reputation in the legal community — and not a good one.

Earlier this year, a federal bankruptcy judge declared him a “vexatious litigant,’’ forbidding him from filing any new lawsuits in bankruptcy court in Arizona. That came after Home led a group who asked the court to declare the federal, state and local government bankrupt, at least in part to try to undermine a foreclosure proceeding against his home that was litigated in Pima County Superior Court.

In a ruling in that case, Bankruptcy Judge Eileen Hollowell said Home’s pleadings were “facially baseless’’ and “filed for frivolous reasons with the intent to delay and harass others.’’

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