Sheriff accused of improperly trying to get rid of Stapley judge

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Was there behind-the scenes maneuvering?

PHOENIX - 3TV broke this story on Thursday night after obtaining court papers that make some serious allegations against the sheriff's office.

Court officials hand-delivered a letter to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Chief David Hendershott on Thursday.

It accuses the sheriff's office of improperly trying to get rid of a judge the sheriff and county attorney do not like. It stems from the case against Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley.

The following is a quote from the court to MCSO officials:

"Your actions may constitute an attempt to make improper ex parte contact with the court to exert pressure on the presiding judge to remove judge fields from the case."

Improperly pressuring a judge is a serious charge in the legal world. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas have been open about it. They consider the judge assigned to the Stapley case, Judge Kenneth Fields biased against them.

They have publicly asked Judge Fields to remove himself from the Stapley case.

Now these court officials have come forward, accusing the sheriff's office of improper behind-the-scenes maneuvering to get the judge removed from the case.

The court says that maneuvering includes threats of a lawsuit over an old public records request. Those threats, according to the court administrator, if made outside the court or off the record are a major no-no in the court system.

The court Thursday scolded MCSO officials by writing, "Refrain from making any future ex parteoutside the court...contacts with anyone at the court regarding this case."

MCSO officials said they cannot comment because of the pending litigation in the Stapley case.