The second-in-command for Maricopa County Superior Court’s criminal division denied a request Wednesday morning that he recuse himself from all cases involving the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The hearing followed a motion filed Tuesday afternoon by Dennis Wilenchik, a private attorney contracted by the county attorney’s office. Wilenchik wrote that Judge Timothy Ryan “has demonstrated a persistent pattern of conduct that indicates bias and prejudice against the Maricopa County Attorney and multiple prosecutors in that office.”
Wilenchik cited two instances in which Ryan chastised deputy county attorneys for not showing up for court dates. He also faulted Ryan for releasing a handful of potential illegal immigrants from custody.
According to Proposition 100, defendants who are probably in the country illegally and who have likely committed certain felonies aren’t eligible to post bond for their release while they await trial.
Public defender Robert McWhirter submitted a brief to the court Wednesday morning challenging Wilenchik’s motion. McWhirter wrote that Ryan is “perceived by most practicing lawyers as fair and measured in (his) rulings.”
During the Wednesday morning hearing, Ryan prevented Wilenchik from expounding on the motion, choosing instead to use the time to grill him on the factual basis for the motion.
Wilenchik repeatedly told the judge he was not prepared to detail the instances of bias he included in his motion because he hadn’t been present when they were committed and hadn’t reviewed the transcripts of the proceedings. He had, however, interviewed the deputy county attorneys involved, he said.
Wilenchik said he will file a similar motion regarding Ryan with Judge Thomas O’Toole by tonight. O’Toole will consider whether Wilenchik’s arguments have merit and whether they would be better handled by an out-of-county judge.
Ryan was named associate presiding criminal division judge in April. He entered the position as County Attorney Andrew Thomas began vigorously accusing the court of failing to enforce Proposition 100.
Ryan spent five years as a public defender, three years as a county prosecutor and 10 years in private practice before he was appointed to the bench in 2005 by Gov. Janet Napolitano.