Supreme Court unable to find Stringer law application
PHOENIX -- Embattled state Rep. David Stringer may have one less issue to worry about.
A spokesman for the Arizona Supreme Court told Capitol Media Services that his agency is unable to find Stringer's 2003 application form seeking permission to practice law in this state.
The information comes after the State Bar of Arizona confirmed earlier this past week that the organization which regulates the conduct of attorneys had opened an inquiry into whether the Prescott Republican had disclosed his criminal record when he moved to the state and applied to be admitted to the Bar.
Bar spokesman Rick DeBruhl said Friday he could not comment on the failure of the Supreme Court to find the application form. Nor could he say what affect that has on any inquiries into Stringer.
But without the form, there are no documents to prove whether he complied with the requirements of the high court's Committee on Character and Fitness to provide all the information requested.
No matter what the Bar does or does not pursue on Stringer, he still faces a pair of complaints made by other lawmakers to the House Ethics Committee. While some of what's behind those complaints deals with comments about race and immigration he made last year, both also refer to a copy of a court record from Maryland referring to his arrest on multiple charges, including child pornography.
Stringer has told Capitol Media Services he has "no criminal record,'' apparently relying on the fact that he entered into a plea deal which was supposed to expunge the court records after he completed probation.
But the application to practice law in Arizona specifically asks for any time a person has been questioned, arrested, taken into custody, indicted, charged with, tried for or pleaded guilty to any criminal violation. And it requires applications to disclose all incidents, "whether guilty or not, whether expunged or not, whether you believe or were advise that you need not disclose any such instance.''
Supreme Court spokesman Aaron Nash said while he cannot find Stringer's application or even a blank application form from 2003, "there is no record that the language on the requirements to disclose convictions, arrests, investigations and other matters, even when expunged, has changed between then and now.''
Nash said there's nothing unusual about the fact that no one can find Stringer's original application.
"The retention schedule for Bar applicant files is seven years after admission,'' he said.
In this case, Stringer was admitted to practice in January 2004, "which in this case would have called for destruction in January 2011.''
The lack of the written record, however, does not mean the State Bar cannot question Stringer about his application -- or, for that matter, about anything else. And attorneys have no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in Bar inquiries, meaning they can be compelled to answer all questions or have their ability to practice law rescinded.
Nor does any of that affect the House investigation.
Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who chairs the Ethics Committee, said he is hiring outside legal help to investigate the complaints, interview potential witnesses and provide legal advice. But he also said that the inquiry may not be limited to Stringer's statements or even the arrest record.
"The committee may wide the scope of the review if additional evidence is presented during the course of the investigation,'' he said, urging anyone with "relevant'' information to contact the panel.
Shope said he cannot provide a time line for the investigation.
The first step is giving Stringer, who was given copies of both the Bolding and Townsend complaints, a chance to respond. No deadline has been set for that.
Shope said, though, he hopes to finish as soon as possible "without compromising the integrity and fairness of the investigation.''
One of the complaints comes from Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, who even before the arrest records were disclosed already was looking for the House to censure Stringer. That had to do with comments he made last summer to the Republican Men's Club in Prescott, including that immigration represents "an existential treat to the United States,'' that America's "melting pot'' exists for "people of Europen descent,'' and that immigrants from south of the border don't assimilate because they maintain connections with their home countries.
Those comments resulted in calls by some, including Gov. Doug Ducey, for Stringer to resign. He did not and was reelected in November.
Within weeks, Stringer was back in the news for telling students at Arizona State Universities that assimilation doesn't work with African-Americans and other racial groups "because they don't melt in, they don't blend in, they always look different.''
He also said there is a "pretty significant burden'' on Arizona taxpayers for having to teach English to students who come to school without that being their first language and said that Hispanics vote Democratic because they want more immigration to bring "more of their co-religionists, their own people like them, into the country.''
Those comments cost him the chairmanship of a committee on criminal justice reform that incoming House Speaker Rusty Bowers had created at Stringer's request.
The disclosure of the court records last week created new problems, with Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, filing her own ethics complaint.
"I cannot tolerate even reports of current or past conduct that, if true, would hold an elected member up to shameful public dishonor and scorn,'' she wrote.