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Maricopa County attorney: Hobbs' abortion-related executive order is 'procedural manipulation'

Amid backlash from conservative lawmakers against a recent executive order giving certain powers of prosecution to the Arizona attorney general, another voice has joined the fray.

In a press conference Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell called the move a “procedural manipulation.”

Mitchell said she and other county attorneys are determining next steps to address the order, which transfers their power to prosecute abortions exclusively to the Attorney General.

She also said no abortion-related cases have been submitted to her office, or any prosecuting agency in Arizona.

“Our current governor took an entire category of potential offenses,” Mitchell said, “and is attempting to prevent locally elected county attorneys from reviewing and making charging decisions in those matters.”

Earlier this week, Attorney General Kris Mayes told KJZZ’s The Show there is precedent.

“Governor Castro did it back when the Don Bolles case was going on,” Mayes said. “He transferred jurisdiction from a local prosecutor to Attorney General Bruce Babbitt. So we know it’s happened. It shouldn’t happen often.”

Mitchell seemingly addressed the comment, saying the circumstances in the Don Bolles case made the unprecedented action necessary. He was a reporter for the Arizona Republic who was killed after a dynamite bomb was planted under his car in 1976.

“What Governor Hobbs did on Friday is not even in the ballpark of what Governor Castro did,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the move lacks precedent, and questioned the new precedent it could set.

“What happens when another person occupies the governor’s seat and attempts this kind of power grab?” she asked. “What other set of offenses might a governor in the future not like and remove from local prosecutors?”

Mitchell would not say whether the order is illegal or unconstitutional. But Hobbs has stood by it, saying Tuesday that anyone with serious concerns can take it to court.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.