Fact-checking Arizona Democrats’ claim that Abraham Hamadeh misled about his legal experience

Kris Mayes, left, and Abe Hamadeh, right, argue over election integrity.
Kris Mayes, left, and Abe Hamadeh, right, argue over election integrity.(PBS)
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 4:41 PM MST
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WASHINGTON (Politifact) - In the Arizona attorney general race, Republican Abraham Hamadeh has leaned on his work as a prosecutor in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. His campaign website says he “has appeared in court to prosecute criminals, uphold victims’ rights, and seek justice for the community.”

But the Arizona Democratic party cast doubt on his resume.

“Hamadeh, who wants to be Arizona’s lawyer, lied about his legal experience,” the party tweeted Sept. 13.

After a recent debate, Hamadeh’s opponent, Democrat Kris Mayes, said Hamadeh exaggerated his work as a prosecutor.

“I think he didn’t first chair any cases,” Mayes said Sept. 28.

First chair refers to the lead attorney on a case. We took a closer look at Hamadeh’s work record.

Hamadeh’s resume

In an interview on Prescott Talks, Hamadeh said he worked on “dozens of trials” for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. In a Sept. 12 interview on The Gaydos and Chad Show, Barry Markson, an attorney and legal expert for KTAR News, asked Hamadeh about his courtroom experience.

“Have you been what we call first chair, where you’ve led trials, you’ve actually conducted the trials yourself?” Markson asked.

“Absolutely,” Hamadeh answered.

When pressed to estimate how many trials he had led, Hamadeh diverted and complained about the work of a freelance reporter who had delved into his work history.

State Bar of Arizona records show that Hamadeh got his law degree from the University of Arizona and was admitted to practice in May 2017. Personnel files obtained by freelance writer Dillon Rosenblatt show he began working as prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office four months later in September 2017. The state Democratic party highlighted Rosenblatt’s work.

Hamadeh’s 14 month deployment as a U.S. Army Reserve intelligence officer interrupted his stint at the county’s attorney’s office. In total, Hamadeh worked as prosecutor for a bit less than three years.

Hamadeh’s trial experience

In his application for that county position, Hamadeh said that he prosecuted 10 misdemeanor bench trials and two misdemeanor jury trials for DUIs when he worked as legal intern for the Tucson City Prosecutor’s Office in 2015.

Valeena Beety, a criminal law professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School, said law students in Arizona can practice law in court as part of an externship or clinic if they are supervised by an attorney with an Arizona Bar license.

“Generally students don’t get to first chair a case; if they do, it would be for a minor fine or maybe a misdemeanor,” Beety said.

According to court records, Hamadeh worked on 27 criminal cases as a prosecutor. None of these cases went to trial, as the charges were either dismissed or the defendant pleaded guilty.

Beety, who also has experience as a federal prosecutor, added that lawyers can only be considered first chair if their case goes to trial. The pattern in Hamadeh’s cases is typical. According to research published by the Vera Institute of Justice in 2020, over 90% of convictions at the state and federal level come through plea bargains.

Hamadeh and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Our ruling

The Arizona Democratic Party said Hamadeh misled “about his legal experience.”

Hamadeh said in an interview that he worked on “dozens of trials” for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and led cases as first chair.

Court records list Hamadeh as participating in 28 cases, and none of those cases went to trial. In practice, the role of first chair applies to trials.

Hamadeh participated in cases, but embellished his role.

Without judging whether he intended to deceive — as the Democrats said — we rate this claim Half True.