A controversial “advocacy” group that’s sued 1,700 Valley businesses has a surprising new attorney in their corner: ex-Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
It means Horne is now litigating against his former office in the state’s ongoing legal battle against Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID).
The Attorney General’s Office has asked a judge to grant evidentiary hearings and discovery against AID in order to sanction the group and its members for their conduct. In an interview with ABC15, Horne said his representation of AID is narrowly focused on defending AID against the sanctions.
“I feel absolutely comfortable representing them on this issue,” Horne said.
State attorneys have accused AID of operating a fraudulent money-making scheme to squeeze millions of dollars out of businesses with its drive-by lawsuits. The state’s motions claim that AID made repeated legal mistakes, fabricated legal fees and engaged in fraud.
Horne wouldn’t discuss those allegations, essentially saying they’re now moot.
“I’m not saying either way if they have. I’m trying to avoid getting into that discussion,” Horne said. “I’m can only comment on things that are in our pleadings.”
In late February, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Talamante tossed all of AID’s open lawsuits – more than 1,000 cases – because no one with disabilities visited the businesses.
Since the judge has ruled on the cases, Horne said it’s now too late to raise widespread allegations of fraud.
“It’s dismissed. It’s over. It’s not a live case anymore,” Horne said.
The only matter Horne believes still needs to be decided in the sanctions matter is whether it was reasonable for AID to file disability-access lawsuits without a plaintiff visiting businesses. He said that Arizona’s broad and unclear statutes will support AID’s case.
It will be interesting to see how Judge Talamante rules on the matter.
In previous hearings, the Attorney General’s Office openly voiced its intention to file motions for sanctions and allege improper conduct by AID. However, the judge told the state to hold off on filing those motions until after he ruled on whether to dismiss the cases.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.