Citizens call for firing of Pima County Legal Defender

By Linda Bentley | July 23, 2008

Garcia gleefully condoned mock lynching and beheading of Sheriff Joe Arpaio
TUCSON – On July 10, in front of a Barnes and Nobel bookstore in Tucson, Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia organized and led students and other illegal immigration advocates in a protest against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was there for a book-signing event.

Videos posted on You Tube of the protest show students beating a piñata-like effigy of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio until the head came off. Garcia then picks up the head, which can be seen in the following video link:
This next video shows Garcia holding up the head of Arpaio as she gleefully parades around smiling and laughing for the media.

garciaThis is not the first time Garcia, as a county employee, has riled citizens, who have demanded she be fired for her subversive activities. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry publicly stated on the news Garcia hasn’t done anything wrong and she is entitled to her first amendment rights while on her own time.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre, who is also a member of the state bar, begs to differ and sent a letter to Huckleberry last week saying, “I am sure you are already aware of the disgraceful, unethical conduct of Isabel Garcia, your chief legal defender, at Sheriff Arpaio’s book signing appearance on Thursday … Her position as the department head of the Legal Defender’s Office elevates her to a policy maker for that department. As such, you cannot use the head-in-the-sand approach that Ms. Garcia can do whatever she wants on her own time.”

MacIntyre stated Garcia’s conduct reflects on Pima County due to her position of public trust and for Huckleberry to “stand by idly while Garcia actively encourages even mock assaults and beheading of an elected law enforcement officer is reprehensible to anyone. For another county official or county government to condone such conduct is unbelievable.”
In conclusion, MacIntyre referred Huckleberry to specific sections of the Rules of Professional Conduct, stated Garcia’s conduct runs contrary to all three ethical mandates and said he would be forwarding a copy of the letter to the state bar for appropriate follow-up, with the expectation the bar would be more active in policing its organization than Pima County.

The Arizona State Bar’s website discusses ethical conduct of lawyers in great detail and with regard to public officials, states, “Lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of other citizens. A lawyer's abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of attorney.”

Garcia responded to MacIntyre’s letter by stating her for-profit organization Derechos Humanos (Human Rights) called for the protest because of Arpaio’s “outrageous police actions in the communities of Phoenix, as well as his political views surrounding the immigration issues in general.”

She said, “[M]any of us in Tucson have made a promise that we will not allow him to come into our town without hearing from those of us who stand in support of the thousands of workers and their families who have borne the brunt of his narrow-minded, ignorant policies. That he would come to Tucson to promote a book filled with lies, fear and ignorant perspectives about immigrants, was especially appalling to us.”

Garcia is an advocate for illegal immigration, open borders and claims no human is illegal. Because she is not only a lawyer but a taxpayer-funded Pima County employee, citizens in Tucson find the county’s tolerance for Garcia’s activities mind-boggling.

“We stand for the principles of peace and justice,” wrote Garcia, who said the campaign to get her fired was instigated by Jon Justice, a popular Tucson radio talk-show host on 104.1 FM, which she called the “new hate-radio” in town.

She said Justice was urging everyone to call Huckleberry to get her fired because she dared to exercise her first amendment rights.

Garcia said Justice called breaking the piñata of Arpaio a violent act.

“That is simply absurd,” said Garcia, “The piñata was a symbol of Arpaio’s racist, violent and brutal policies,” claiming Arpaio is the violent one.

She went on about how she stands committed to stopping “hatred and xenophobia, and to work for a society that respects human rights for everyone, regardless of their age, color, race, ethnic background, gender …”

Garcia failed to mention legal status, although she said, as an attorney she finds it is not only her right but her responsibility “to stand up when the power of the state is used to crush people. I will continue to do so.”

The Derechos Humanos website posted a call to action to defend Garcia’s First Amendment rights and “demand accountability from those who would support hate media.”

It stated, “We ask you, as community allies, to step up with us in defending Isabel Garcia, demand accountability from 104.1 FM and KGUN 9, and that hate speech not be given a platform in our communities.”

So, there they were defending Garcia’s First Amendment right to hold a mock lynching of a law enforcement official who enforces immigration laws, while calling to silence those who disagree by branding it “hate speech.”

But it didn’t end there. On July 15, Pima County Supervisor Ann Day sent a memorandum to Huckleberry after viewing the video of Garcia at the protest. She wrote, “Several citizens have also contacted my office to voice concern. And, while I certainly respect Ms. Garcia’s First Amendment right to free expression, her behavior in the context of county employment raises some concerns for me …”

Day voiced concerns about Garcia frequently attending protests, press conferences and other events during county business hours that have no relation to county employment and asked Huckleberry to provide her with an accounting of Garcia’s time and an explanation as to whether he, as the county administrator with direct supervision of county employees, feels Garcia’s actions are detracting from the time she should be working on county business or her job performance.

“It is my opinion,” said Day, “that her actions at the Barnes and Noble event bring discredit to Pima County,” and asked what employee policies or guidelines currently address such behavior in the context of Garcia’s employment.

And last, Day said, if no such policies address the issues raised above, I would like a brief survey of how other jurisdictions address employee actions in similar circumstances.

It will be interesting to find out if there are any other jurisdictions that employ legal staff that doesn’t believe in the rule of law and actively promote subversive activities to counter it.

Photo caption: Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia organized the protest in front of a Barnes and Noble book store in Tucson where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was holding a book-signing event. After an effigy (piñata) of Arpaio was decapitated by protestors, Garcia gleefully paraded the head around for the media.

KVOA Poll Results:
Was it right for Pima County Public Defender Isabel Garcia to publicly protest Sheriff Arpaio, even though at the time she was protesting as a citizen and not as an employee of the state?
Yes, she has the right to protest as a citizen 18.7% | 352 votes
Yes, she has the right but it was in poor taste. 7.6% | 142 votes
No, but she should not lose her job. 3% | 56 votes
No, and she should lose her job. 70.7% | 1328 votes
Total: 1878 votes