Tucson lawyer sues city alleging sex harassment by former judge

2012-06-07T14:06:00Z Tucson lawyer sues city alleging sex harassment by former judgeKim Smith, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A deputy city public defender has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Tucson alleging sexual harassment by a former municipal judge.

Sharolynn Griffiths wants the city to train managers and employees on discrimination and harassment, develop and implement an appropriate process when someone believes they are harassed and create an appropriate anti-harassment policy statement. In addition, Griffiths is seeking unspecified compensatory damages and attorneys fees.

Former Tucson City Court Judge Ted Abrams is not named as a defendant nor is he identified as the offending judge, but Griffiths was named in court documents as Abrams’ victim.

The city has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation, City Attorney Michael Rankin said.

Abrams resigned in February 2011 after the Pima County Superior Court found that Griffiths had been subjected to unwanted and unsolicited contact of a sexual nature.

Abrams made “implicit and explicit comments, particularly via cellphone voice and text messages,” investigators determined.

Six months later, the Arizona Supreme Court suspended Abrams from practicing law for two years because he committed multiple offenses over a significant period of time and his victim was “particularly vulnerable.”

Because Abrams had resigned, the most the Supreme Court could do was issue a censure and prohibit him from seeking judicial office again. However, the State Bar of Arizona asked the court to take disciplinary action against him because of his status as an attorney.

In a 23-page opinion about the suspension, Justice A. John Pelander wrote “His misbehavior severely tarnished the justice system and the legal profession. By abusing his office, Abrams struck at the very heart of the judiciary's legitimacy, injuring not just his victims, but the law as an institution”

Pelander noted that while Abrams said he was remorseful, he told investigators the defense attorney didn’t “necessarily object” to his comments and he didn’t believe his conduct constituted harassment.

The fact Abrams said then that he suffered from a serious drug addiction and mental-health issues didn’t “overcome the presumptive sanction of suspension,” Pelander wrote.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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