Deputy La Paz County Attorney Karen Hobbs was reprimanded in November by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court for using improper methods in plea negotiations in certain drug cases.
In his final judgement and order handed down Nov. 12, Presiding Disciplinary Judge William J. O’Neill stated that when Hobbs became aware of her error, she took steps to mitigate her actions and cooperated with authorities investigating the matter.
The parties involved agreed Hobbs should pay costs totaling $1,200.
O’Neill’s order says that Hobbs used a plea bargaining practice in 2014 in drug cases involving disclosure of confidential informants that was no longer permitted as a result of modifications to the revised Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. These modifications went into effect in January 2014.
Hobbs learned of her error in December 2014 after she observed a Mohave County trial and asked the prosecutor about his plea bargaining practices. In January 2015, she travelled to Phoenix and sought the advice of Maricopa County prosecutors.
The order said Hobbs began mitigating the effects of her errors soon after this.
“Ms. Hobbs conditionally admits her misconduct violated Rules 42, ERs 3.4(a) (fairness to opposing party/counsel), 3.8(d) (prosecutor disclosure/special responsibilities) and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice),” the order said.
As an aggravating factor, the order said Hobbs engaged in a pattern of negligent misconduct. As for mitigating factors, the order found Hobbs had no prior disciplinary record, engaged in a timely good faith effort to rectify the consequences of that misconduct, and she made full and free disclosure to disciplinary boards and had a cooperative attitude towards the proceedings.
“Attorney Hobbs corrected her mistake as soon as she understood that she was wrong,” La Paz County Attorney Tony Rogers said in an e-mail. “This has been a learning experience for her and adjustments have been made to prevent it from happening again.”
“I received a bar complaint for refusing to disclose the identity of confidential informants in cases involving the sales of illegal drugs, most commonly methamphetamine, within the required time limits.,” Hobbs said. “Unaware of a recent change in the law, I continued to rely on the prior outdated rule. For this I was appropriately reprimanded by the Arizona Bar. As an attorney, it is my responsibility to stay informed as to every change in the law. I sincerely regret my error and any inconvenience it has caused.”
The Disciplinary Presiding Judge oversees attorney disciplinary matters in Arizona. On the Arizona Supreme Court website, the duties are described this way: “The Presiding Disciplinary Judge presides over attorney discipline proceedings and issues orders together with a two-member hearing panel.
The opinions of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and hearing panel are final orders in that case and may be appealed to the Supreme Court in accordance with Rule 59, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court. Although the decisions of the Hearing Panel are final orders in the case in which they are issued, they do not serve as stare decisis precedent for future cases nor constitute the law of the jurisdiction.”
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Deputy County Attorney reprimanded