A Tucson defense attorney has been suspended from practicing law for two years by the presiding disciplinary judge of the Arizona Supreme Court because of "unethical and unprofessional" behavior.
In a 101-page order filed May 25, Judge William J. O'Neil ruled Creighton Cornell repeatedly filed motions that alleged Yuma County Superior Court judges were biased "without a good faith basis in fact or law," and did so because he received unfavorable rulings, wanted to embarrass the judges and delay proceedings.
According to the order, Cornell began representing Henry Varela II in June 2008 after his original attorney was removed from the case because of a conflict of interest. Cornell filed numerous and often overlapping motions against at least two judges claiming his client wasn't being treated fairly, the judges either failed to make findings and conclusions when asked, or made factually inaccurate findings. The defense attorney also claimed the judges were refusing to address misconduct by the Yuma County Attorney's Office, discussed the matter with other judges, ruled on issues without hearings and made rulings inconsistent with the law.
Although the State Bar of Arizona recommended a six-month suspension and two years' probation, O'Neil said there were numerous factors that warranted an aggravated sentence. He said Cornell had a dishonest or selfish motive, engaged in a pattern of misconduct, committed multiple offenses and refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct.
Cornell said he intends to file an appeal. He insisted Varela was wrongfully indicted and the victim of the most massive example of prosecutorial misconduct in Arizona history.
The case against Varela was dismissed in January 2011 because of the work he did, Cornell said.
Varela is pursuing a civil lawsuit because of his wrongful indictment, Cornell said.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org