A complaint was filed against a Pinal County, AZ judge for the sealing of records in this civil case in violation of the Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court, Rule 123(d) that requires a statement to be made giving the reasons for the sealing of case records. The case involved charges of aiding and abetting and disgorgement, among others, filed by a court appointed Receiver looking for some missing $650,000 in HOA funds. The charges were against a well-known CAI member attorney.
There is no record of this case on the Pinal County Superior Court official public website, not even an entry that the case was sealed, and not even an entry that the case was dismissed. This very disturbing act recalls the secret proceedings of Star Chamber justice with its own version of doing justice. A motion asking the judge to unseal the records was denied by the county clerk, leading to this complaint of judicial misconduct.
The complaint of judicial misconduct was two-fold: a black-letter violation of law in regard to Rule 123(d), which simple states, “Upon closing any record the court shall state the reason for the action, including a reference to the statute, case, rule or administrative order relied upon;” and a complaint that the entire record of this case has been denied public access.
The judicial complaint set forth grounds for unsealing the records.
On behalf of the American public, and in light of the public’s strong interest in the judicial treatment of homeowner association attorneys and the longstanding public policy in favor of open access to judicial records, the undersigned, George K. Staropoli, hereby moves the Court to unseal all court records in this case.
Staropoli has operated two nonprofit internet websites to provide nationwide information, news, legal actions, and commentary on events, incidents and developments pertaining to homeowners associations for over twelve years. They are a blog, HOA Constitutional Government, and an informational site, Citizens for Constitutional Local Government, in support of homeowner rights and in opposition to the inequities of the existing HOA legal scheme. Staropoli has been acknowledged in several legal texts and treatises, and quoted in other books and in the news media.
And in further support of public access,
Rule 123(c), Public Access to the Judicial Records of the State of Arizona, of the Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court pertaining to Judicial Conduct, states that all court records are presumed to be open to the public, except “some court records” for confidentiality, privacy or if in the best interests of the state. Rule 123(d) requires the court to show cause for sealing “some court records,” including the legal basis for such action.
The Arizona Rules of Judicial Conduct, Rule 81, emphasizes that “an independent, fair, and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice” and that the judiciary is to preserve the “principles of justice and the rule of law.” Judges “should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence.” It is inconceivable as to what state interests exist that would overwhelmingly override these precepts, and not to inform the public accordingly.
It was then argued that the attorney, Charles Maxwell, comes with unclean hands having been subject to serious sanctions regarding “fraud upon the court” and filing a frivolous suit. And it was also argued that Maxwell is a public persona as a result of providing seminars and classes in the law to the public regarding HOAs, and as a highly respected member of CAI and its College of Community Association Lawyers.
Speaking in judicial lingo, the heavy burden falls to the party seeking to hide the records to overcome all of the above.
The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct will conduct an investigation of the complaint, No. 12-148, in due order.
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