Prosecutor's office added in Marana - Tucson Local Media: Import

Prosecutor's office added in Marana

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Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2005 11:00 pm

August 3, 2005 - When Jane Fairall took a job in the Tucson Unified School District's legal department two years ago, she knew she wasn't leaving prosecution for too long.

"I really liked being a prosecutor, and it was something I didn't think I was leaving for good," said Fairall, who had previously worked eight years in the Tucson City Prosecutor's Office. "It was really an opportunity to learn and get into the civil arena."

With that experience under her belt, Fairall, 36, joined Marana's legal department as the town's first full-time prosecutor last month, ending the town's longtime contract with the Hochuli & Benavidez law firm. Town officials say the addition of an in-house prosecutor marks a bold step in Marana's history as the town continues to grow and the court's caseload steadily increases.

"It means a great deal to the court," said Court Administrator Joe Teta. "It's a significant event in the town's growth, and we look forward to having Jane. She's extremely competent and we're sure she'll do a thorough job."

Fairall, no stranger to prosecution after her years in Tucson, is in charge of prosecuting misdemeanor crimes that occur within the town limits. The bulk of the caseload she'll be handling will involve offenses such as drunk driving, domestic violence, driving on a suspended license, shoplifting, assaults and criminal trespassing.

"You can see her just about any Wednesday over at the courthouse," said Town Attorney Frank Cassidy. "She's in there doing hearings all day long, so you'll see her if you go down there. Or if you get a ticket."

Wednesdays are an overly busy day, as Fairall spends most of her time from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with the exception of a lunch break, prosecuting defendants of misdemeanor crimes. Felony crimes that occur in Marana are adjudicated in Pima County Superior Court.

"When this opportunity came along to start this Marana prosecution office up from the ground floor, I really couldn't pass it up," Fairall said. "The town's obviously just growing and getting bigger, and more people are moving here. I'm glad to be here at this point, and it's exciting to watch it grow and be a part of that."

Hiring Fairall at a salary of $82,000 ends the town's contracts with Hochuli & Benavidez, which the town paid $113,770 for services this past fiscal year. Before hiring Cassidy two years ago, Marana used the law firm as both its town attorney and prosecutor, which cost the town more than $350,000 a year. Attorney Dan Hochuli did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

"The Hochuli & Benavidez law firm served the town very well in its infancy stages, but from time to time, things fell through the cracks," Teta said. "The addition of a prosecutor adds great stability to the court, because this is all Jane will be doing is focusing on our cases and making sure they will be adjudicated."

Fairall was hired by Marana on May 2 and officially assumed duties as the town's full-time prosecutor July 1. She is charged with the task of organizing loads of files during a transitional period in the town's legal department. Eventually, once everything is running smoothly, Cassidy said Fairall's duties could be reduced to less than full time.

According to town records, the Marana Municipal Court's caseload has increased by 13 percent in the past year and by about 32 percent in the past four years. The total caseload for fiscal year 2004-05 was 7,997, of which 1,237 were criminal traffic violations and 1,164 were misdemeanor crimes. In fiscal year 2000-01, the court handled 6,038 cases.

The Marana Municipal Court handles a caseload that includes civil traffic violations and misdemeanor crimes that occur in the town. The court also resolves violations of town ordinances and provides protection orders and injunctions against harassment, and issues marriage licenses.

Cassidy was hired as the town's first in-house attorney two years ago at a salary of $96,000. His salary has since risen to $115,266, making his position the second highest paid behind Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat, who makes $128,439, according to town records.

The entire legal department's budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year is $427,565.

Cassidy has more than 20 years of experience in civil law. He previously served as an assistant city attorney for Tucson and spent almost six years as a deputy attorney in the civil division of the Pima County Attorney's Office. Cassidy said he didn't know Fairall when he worked in Tucson because the civil and criminal offices were separate.

A 1995 graduate of the University of Arizona law school, Fairall was named Arizona's 1999 Misdemeanor Prosecutor of the Year by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council.

One of most significant cases Fairall handled in her career as a prosecutor involved a challenge to the breath-testing instruments used by the Tucson Police Department in 2001. Defense attorneys challenged more than 100 DUI cases in Tucson City Court, accusing police and prosecutors of not properly recording data from breath-testing machines that could aid the defense of those criminally charged. The case hinged on blood-alcohol measurements taken by Tucson police using a breath-analysis machine called the Intoxilyzer 5000. Fairall argued that no data was ever destroyed and won the case.

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