VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 27   |   JULY 6 – 12, 2011


Judge resigns after getting caught in a fib

Grants defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on assumption rather than fact

gary donahoePHOENIX – Thursday, June 30 was Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe’s last day on the bench.

In his May 5, 2011 letter of resignation to Gov. Jan Brewer, he quoted Seneca: “You must know for which harbor you are headed if you are to catch the right wind to take you there.”

He then wrote, “For over 21 years, my harbor has been the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County. I have felt a fresh wind at my back pushing me in a new direction …”

Some say he’s leaving due to too many forces breathing down the back of his neck, including Dr. James Houston, a former Northern Arizona University instructor, whose case against Attorney General Tom Horne, in his former capacities as Arizona State Superintendent of Schools and member of the Arizona Board of Education, was pending in Donahoe’s court.

However, as I reported back in April, “Corruption runs deep in Maricopa County as lawsuits continue,” Houston’s case suddenly became focused on Donahoe.

Houston believes it was due to repeated and embarrassing allegations of a corrupt judiciary caused by Donahoe’s actions that resulted in a “behind-the-scenes demand that he resign.”
On Sept. 7, 2010, preceding oral arguments on Houston’s motions, Donahoe stated, “I don’t know if I need to do this or not but since Mr. Horne’s a defendant in this, I’m going to disclose that I made a $200 campaign contribution to Felecia Rotellini (Horne’s Democrat opponent for attorney general). So, if that makes a difference to anybody, I will recuse myself.”

After neither side objected, Donahoe stated, “OK. If anyone changes their mind, let me know.”

It was later discovered that Donahoe never made any contribution to Rotellini’s campaign. In fact, Donahoe’s last political contributions were made in 2000, when he contributed $25 each to the Harry Mitchell for State Senate and Hartley for Senate campaigns.

Houston, who lives in Oregon, became deeply concerned when Donahoe denied him the right to present crucial evidence at trial.

He also just learned Donahoe had been under investigation for corruption.

After confirming and reconfirming Donahoe had never made a contribution to the Rotellini campaign, on March 15, 2011, Houston filed a “Notice for the Disqualification of Trial Judge Based upon Cause.”

Judge Robert Oberbillig responded on March 28 with a minute entry order giving Donahoe two days to research his bank records and provide a copy of the check, any bank statement at issue and any declaration regarding the same “for in camera inspection by March 30, 2011.”

On April 4, Oberbillig issued a minute entry order stating the court had received a “signed declaration (filed within) and the attached copy of the check register, the carbon copy of the check, and the account statement (filed under seal).” There was no copy of a canceled check noted.

Oberbillig denied Houston’s motion to remove Donahoe, stating he “failed to meet his burden of proof to establish any legal grounds for striking a judge for cause …”

After numerous requests, Houston was unable to obtain a copy of the declaration, the only item not filed under seal.

On May 11, Sonoran News was finally able to obtain a copy of the declaration from Oberbillig’s clerk.

In his declaration, Donahoe claimed he attended a fundraising event for Rotellini on Aug. 18, 2010 at a home on Adair Drive in Phoenix.

He stated, “Prior to going to the fundraising event, I wrote a check for $200 to Ms. Rotellini’s campaign … Attached to this declaration is a copy of my check register showing that check # 1036 was written to “Elect Felecia Rotellini” on Aug. 18, 2010. The carbon copy of check #1036 is also attached.”

Donahoe stated, upon arriving at the fundraiser, he placed the check in an envelope provided by one of the campaign volunteers and then gave it back to the same volunteer.
He said he does not review bank statements, claiming his “wife handles all of our financial matters.”

And, when he asked his wife to acquire a copy of the check, she printed out an account statement reflecting check #1036 had not been presented for payment, which was why it never appeared on any of Rotellini’s campaign finance reports.

He stated, “I have no idea what happened to check #1036 after I gave it to one of Ms. Rotellini’s campaign volunteers on the evening of Aug. 18, 2010.”

Rotellini has not responded to our calls.

Apparently no one in the Donahoe household balances their checkbook.

Here it was, more than seven months after the fundraiser and neither Donohoe nor his wife ever noticed or questioned why check #1036 hadn’t cleared. They never initiated a stop payment nor reissued a new check to the Rotellini campaign.

On April 1, just two days after producing some of the documents requested by Oberbillig, Donahoe filed articles of incorporation with the Arizona Corporation Commission for Rings of Court, Inc., which records indicate is in the business of “selling custom made jewelry.”

Then on May 5, Donahoe submitted his letter of resignation.

Donahoe, who currently has a lawsuit pending against Maricopa County in U.S. District Court before Judge Neil Wake, is seeking millions in damages stemming from former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas’ filing RICO charges against him in connection with the downtown court tower project.

Even though the charges were later dropped, as Thomas pointed out last July, Donahoe, Anna Baca, Kenneth Field and Barbara Mundell, Maricopa County Superior Court judges who have all since retired, engaged in “improper conduct.”

Donahoe refused to recuse himself from the court tower investigation even though it potentially implicated both him and Mundell.

It was later exposed that Donahoe was being represented by the same law firm that was representing the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. In other words, Donahoe was presiding over his own case.

Thomas said the board of supervisors allowed the same four judges to be included in their own “rigged mediation system” rather than requiring them to litigate their claims in a court of law.

“An unaccountable state judiciary has allowed this to happen,” said Thomas, noting there was the imminent prospect of bilking taxpayers out of $46 million for bogus legal claims.
So, on June 8, with the fresh wind at his back pushing him in a new direction, Donahoe issued a ruling in Houston’s case and granted Horne’s motion for summary judgment.

For his legal reasoning, Donahoe stated “the court has assumed” Horne said one thing when, in fact, he said something else.

During the Sept. 7, 2010 hearing, Donahoe told Houston a jury would decide what it was Horne was recorded as saying, stating he couldn’t understand what was being said on the CD, despite others who listened to the same recording saying it’s crystal clear that Horne accused Houston of saying the Navajos are a “stupid superstitious people,” which Houston absolutely denies saying, claims is defamatory, resulted in him being denied teacher certification and was the basis for his complaint.

Houston, confident Donahoe’s ruling will be overturned, said he will be filing an appeal. However, in order to do so, he needs a signed order, which the now retired Donahoe has yet to produce.

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