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Ex-county prosecutor disbarred by state Supreme Court



Local defense lawyer Lourdes Salomon Lopez, a former Pima County prosecutor, was disbarred Thursday by the Arizona Supreme Court for her role in a drug case linked to her ex-fiance, Bradley Alan Schwartz, a former eye surgeon convicted of ordering the death of a rival doctor.

The order takes effect in 30 days to give Lopez time to wrap up any cases she has.

The State Bar of Arizona filed a complaint against Lopez, saying she lied to Drug Enforcement Administration agents in 2001, and a federal judge and the Bar in connection with her federal indictment with Schwartz on prescription drug charges in 2002.

A hearing officer recommended a one-year suspension for Lopez, but the Supreme Court’s disciplinary commission said Lopez should be disbarred.

Lopez didn’t return a call seeking comment, but her Phoenix-based attorney, Mark I. Harrison, said her legal team is “bitterly disappointed” by the disbarment.

Harrison said there isn’t “one scintilla” of evidence that Lopez’s actions harmed the public. He said the disciplinary commission didn’t review similar cases that had less severe punishments and that her actions weren’t within the context of a lawyer-client relationship.

“Her conduct hurt her and only her,” Harrison said.

Deputy Chief Bar Counsel Maret Vessella said the State Bar is pleased with the outcome.

“To say that the public wasn’t harmed by her actions is wrong,” she said. “That a prosecutor was willing to violate the laws of the state, then turn around and prosecute you for that crime causes significant public harm.”

In addition, she said, the commission did consider other cases, but disbarment was the appropriate sanction.

Vessella said Lopez’s disbarment will help restore public confidence and the integrity of the profession and serve as a deterrent for other attorneys.

Lopez was a prosecutor in the Pima County Attorney’s Office when she was first approached in 2001 by DEA agents regarding prescriptions Schwartz, then Lopez’s boyfriend, filled using her name. Months later, she admitted that she lied to agents about knowing he filled the prescriptions.

When a federal indictment on felony charges was certain, Lopez told County Attorney Barbara LaWall about her actions. LaWall gave Lopez the option of quitting or being fired and Lopez chose to resign.

“(Lopez) engaged in an extended pattern of deceit, dishonesty and deception,” the Bar said in court filings. “Her acts reflected extreme indifference to the law. (Lopez’s) conduct was self-serving, occurred over an extended period of time and was . . . extensive in its scope and magnitude.”

Lopez had argued that she wasn’t convicted of a felony, because her federal indictment was dismissed after a year when the judge ruled that she had complied with all requirements – though knowingly violated a no-contact order with Schwartz.

The Bar said Lopez’s conduct, which it said did support a felony conviction, is what matters, not the fact that the charges were dismissed.

Schwartz is serving a life sentence after being convicted of hiring Ronald Bruce Bigger to kill Dr. Brian Stidham in October 2004. Bigger was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and is serving two life terms. Both are appealing their convictions.

A trial judge’s decision to ban any testimony regarding Lopez’s lies to the DEA and federal judge is included in Schwartz’s appeal.



Read reports on Lourdes Lopez and other attorneys on the Arizona Supreme Court’s Attorney Discipline Unit Web site:


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