In a just-discovered development, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs filed a 21-page Bar Charge/complaint against Attorney General Mark Brnovich last October. The battle between two of Arizona's top elected officials apparently took that hard turn due to disagreements on how the state should be represented in various election-related lawsuits, including the one currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court about Arizona's so-called "ballot harvesting" prohibition and out of precinct voting laws.
The status of the Bar Complaint is not known at this point, but Arizona's Law has acquired a redacted copy of the complaint from the Secretary of State's Office (below).
Hobbs also provided us with the following statement: "Attorney General Brnovich has engaged in a pattern of behavior—directed at me and my office—that violates his ethical duties as an attorney. He frequently sought to substitute his judgement for my own and allowed his political preferences to interfere with his obligation to represent me as a client, in my pursuit of the best interests of Arizona voters. Because of this, last October I filed a complaint with the State Bar of Arizona. I asked the State Bar to treat the complaint confidentially and have not spoken of it publicly, in the hope that it would be resolved professionally and free of politics. Unfortunately, it appears that AG Brnovich isn’t asking forgiveness for his behavior—he’s asking our legislature to authorize it. The people of Arizona elected me to serve as our state’s Chief Election Officer. Despite partisan attacks and political power grabs, I’ll continue to get the job done on behalf of all Arizona voters.”
Katie Conner, a spokesperson in Brnovich's office, calls the complaint "politically-motivated" and focuses on it reaching to attorneys working in the office. "The Secretary of State’s decision to file politically-motivated bar complaints against AGO lawyers and target their professional standing and reputation has fundamentally altered the historical track record of the offices working together despite differing political affiliations. The assistant attorneys general have steadfastly adhered to their statutory and ethical obligations. Their livelihoods should not be threatened for political purposes."
It should be noted that Hobbs apparently filed the charges in October but did not release them to the public. Today's news came out from an unrelated source.
Phoenix attorney Dan Barr wrote that "An attorney has no greater ethical duty than the duty of loyalty to a client. If you disagree with a client, you don't do so publicly. The 21-page Bar complaint that @SecretaryHobbs filed last October 1 against @GeneralBrnovich lists multiple appalling ethical violations. For example, an ethical attorney does not make derogatory comments about his client. Nor does his office defend his client in the trial court, but then switch sides on appeal to his client's detriment. That's pretty basic, right? Nor do ethical attorneys attempt to assert legal positions that they know their client disagrees with, especially when they do get advanced permission from the client to do so."
After reviewing the letter, Chandler attorney Tom Ryan points out to Arizona's Law that "a lawyer's duty to the court is highest, even above the duty to the client....If these allegations are true and General Brnovich cannot refute them, this is serious enough to have his ticket yanked (i.e. suspended or disbarred)."
Arizona's Law will be seeking comment from the Attorney General's Office, and will be providing further updates as warranted.
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