Commentary: Maricopa Prosecutor Feeling the Heat, Calls to Resign


By Rory Fleming

Dr. Carl Hart is an accomplished neuroscientist and author who teaches at Columbia University. He also uses heroin. Dr. Hart’s experience seems to be that it helps him relax after a hard day. Clearly, it does not interfere with his ability to thrive in his career.

Maricopa County (Ariz.) Attorney Allister Adel is not Dr. Carl Hart. As top local prosecutor, she is the chief public safety official for nearly 4.5 million people—a population resembling a whole state more than a county.

Last September, she shocked her constituents by revealing that she was spending weeks at rehabs for alcohol use issues, including one in California. At the time, she refused to resign.

Now, several members of Adel’s staff, including a member of her management team, have blown the whistle on her continued failures to lead. In a November call, her speech was reportedly slurred. She has also had a spate of absences, though she contends that this was due to contracting COVID-19.

“I’m absolutely an alcoholic and that’s why when I get myself into a situation where I’m concerned or I even have a craving, I immediately pick up the phone and call my sponsor, call my therapist,” Adel told KTAR 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

“My recovery is important to me – physically, emotionally, mentally important to my family,” she continued. “I have to maintain sobriety if I’m going to be successful not just as county attorney, but as a community leader and a wife and a mom.”

There seems to be evidence that she is not sober.

I am in the minority that believes that this is fine, though morally repugnant given that Adel continues to prosecute low-level drug offenses. Alcohol is a drug. The only thing that separates her drug use from other drug use is an arbitrary legal mandate.

What is not fine, and what the people of Arizona should not abide, is Adel’s lack of capacity to consistently serve. Even her biggest supporter, former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, wants her out now, saying she’s “in over her head.”

Maricopa County does not need Allister Adel to sacrifice her health for its maintenance as a good place to live. There are so many other competent, capable attorneys of either political party who can run the office.

The County Attorney’s office also struggles with other issues under her leadership.

For example, in 2020, she showed on live television that she does not understand the cardinal rule governing prosecutorial conduct.

When asked by a podcast host about her stance on Brady lists — lists prosecutors keep of cops known to have committed misconduct — Adel said, “That is a disclosure issue, meaning our lawyers, when they see integrity issues, send that off to a judge, and a defense attorney is notified, and a judge makes a decision if something should be disclosed.”

The Supreme Court’s rule in Brady v. Maryland mandates that prosecutors disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. There is no requirement or need for judges to be involved in that process.

Such a basic mistake about basic criminal procedure should mean a lawyer goes back to remedial classes, not to the top of a massive legal agency. Add in the fact that Allister Adel is no Dr. Carl Hart, and her resignation would be doing Maricopa County a favor.

Rory Fleming is a writer and an attorney


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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