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August 2022

PCAO Chief Civil Deputy Sam Brown with County Attorney Laura Conover

A Month For the Books

August was a month that put the Pima County Attorney’s Office (PCAO) in a national spotlight as the legal ripple effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s July decision to overturn Roe v Wade arrived squarely in Pima County Superior Court.

The Aug. 19 hearing packed the fourth-floor courtroom with media and spectators as the arguments were made for and against Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s motion.  His Office argued the Court should simply lift the current injunction (protection) against prosecutions of abortion in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.

Because the Pima County Attorney’s Office was named as co-defendant with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in the 1973 case by Planned Parenthood of Tucson (as the local organization was then known), the motion to lift the injunction landed in Superior Court – but this time with PCAO – The People’s Office – joining Planned Parenthood as plaintiffs against the Attorney General.

Chief Civil Deputy Sam Brown filed the motion to join the national legal team for Planned Parenthood in arguing that the assigned judge should modify the 1973 injunction, rather than lift it, as doing so would create confusion over the legal status of abortions, given multiple laws adopted over the past 50 years.

While counsel from the AG’s office argued that lifting the injunction is the only response to SCOTUS ending the protections of Roe, our office joined Planned Parenthood in countering that the numerous laws enacted since 1973 need to be harmonized to avoid uncertainty. Among those is a law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in the most recent Legislative session providing for legal abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The hearing was covered by all local media, with KGUN-9 providing pool video to other television outlets and The Arizona Daily Star providing still photos to news organizations. The resulting coverage came from The Arizona Republic and through the Associated press in publications far from Arizona from the Plains to the East Coast, including The Washington Post.

A Pima County Superior Court judge took the arguments under advisement and intends to issue a decision in late September.

A Long and Difficult Case

A week after we made our arguments on the issue of reproductive rights in Arizona, we culminated a long and very difficult investigation of the officer-involved shooting stemming from the November 2021 death of Richard Lee Richards at a Lowes store on Tucson’s southside.

Our exhaustive investigation led us to present the case to a Grand Jury on August 24, and the Grand Jury returned a True Bill (indictment) for a manslaughter charge against former Tucson Police Officer Ryan Remington.

A news conference was held in our 14th Floor Conference Room the following day, focusing on the investigative process, and seeking to peel back some of the mystery of the legal system as Laura has long wanted to do for the community.  Because this Office has not taken an officer to trial for an unlawful shooting since events stemming from 1989, it’s worthwhile viewing the 7-minute statement here.

Laura addresses local media

Bottom line: We take the time needed to do things right and don’t rush our work even under intense public pressure.

That we arrived at criminal charges against the former TPD officer brings us no joy. But our duty is to seek justice on behalf of Pima County and the victims of crimes that occur here.

Through the criminal justice system, we will continue that noble pursuit.

PCAO In the News

Speaking of The People’s Office being in the news, we had a flurry of news coverage in August, including Laura’s byline as part of a USA Today piece about the ongoing push by legislators to expand the failed War on Drugs by providing the opportunity for prosecutors to file murder charges when one person “transfers” narcotics to another, who later experiences a fatal overdose with that narcotic in their system.

PCAO first entered the conversation about the proposed legislation in February 2022 when Laura testified before the Arizona House Judiciary Committee, making the case that prosecutors already have the legal tools needed to file murder charges when appropriate, and that the proposed change would target people who shouldn’t be so harshly charged while having a chilling effect on those in a position to call 911 and, when possible, administer Narcan to prevent an overdose.

Laura and staff joined the reform-oriented organization Fair and Just Prosecution in authoring the USA Today article in opposition to this expansion, then penned an op-ed on the subject that ran Aug. 7 in The Arizona Daily Star.

On August 12, while attending new student orientation at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law – Laura’s alma mater – she took time out to videotape an appearance on veteran journalist Brahm Resnik’s “Sunday Square Off,” where she discussed the upcoming hearing on abortion rights that aired on Sunday, Aug. 14 on the Phoenix-based NBC affiliate.

Laura appears virtually from the UA Law School on Sunday Square off with Brahm Resnik

Revisiting the Alma Mater

Regarding that visit with incoming UA law students, Laura had the opportunity to sit in on a keynote address by one of the great influences on her own career in law – former Deputy Pima County Attorney, former Pima County Superior Court judge, and former Chief U.S. District Court Judge Raner C. Collins.

“It was only supposed to be a 90-minute trip to the law school…,” she wrote afterward in her Week in Review. “But when I heard Judge Raner C. Collins was giving the keynote before teaching lessons, I showed up bright and early to listen in.”

Judge Raner Collins
Judge Raner C. Collins in thought as he addresses UA Law students

As has long been his way, Judge Collins worked without notes to deliver remarks that resonated beyond the realm of the legal world.  You could have heard a pin drop in that room. 

“He was talking about how to be a fine lawyer and preaching about how to be an excellent human,” she wrote. “He was reminding us that the world needs lawyers fighting the good fight, leading with calm assurance, speaking with civility and decorum.”

Muddling Toward a Paperless Workplace

The move toward a paperless workplace is officially underway at The People’s Office, with months of preparation leading to staff training on our newly acquired Prosecution by Karpel software. This new and massive database of case information will replace the current paper system, a case management tool called CAMMS, and allow PCAO to finish purging the 15th Floor of the Pima County Legal Services Building of boxes and boxes of old paper records, files, and notes.

Rows of boxes filled with paper from criminal cases once filled the 15th Floor

While the switch has been long in the preparation, PCAO has now trained all Deputy County Attorneys in the Criminal Division and a host of staff who support and supervise their work.

Next up – What to do with all those printers?

National Mental Health Help

Last – but most certainly not least – this is a reminder that we have a new and vital resource in the realm of mental health in our nation: 988.

Tucson has been ahead of the national curve for years with the Crisis Response Center and the helpline 622-6000, and that number remains in use. However, this new addition to our easy-to-remember national emergency call list will be the most effective route for getting a response to a mental or behavioral health crisis when it is happening. Like 911 and other triple digit calls, 988 needs to become second nature when help is needed to avert a mental health crisis.

This has never been more critical because we as a society are still experiencing the emotional and behavioral costs of the ongoing pandemic, economic stress, and societal unrest. For more information about the services available through calls to 988, visit

Stay safe and healthy!


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