In September 2018, after credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh threatened to sink his Supreme Court nomination, Senate Republicans appointed career prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to turn things around. Mitchell eagerly obliged.
After publicly questioning Kavanagh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, Mitchell wrote in a report that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence.” It wasn’t a criminal case, but the fact that the Special Victims Division prosecutor treated it as a potential one — dismissing it simply as a lack of evidence — was apparently enough for many bar-sitting senators. Kavanaugh was confirmed 50-48.
Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court, behind anti-abortion Justice Amy Coney Barrett, allowed conservative justices to overturn Roe v. Wade last month, ending the constitutional right to abortion. As a result, abortion is now illegal or will soon be illegal in nearly half of all states — including Arizona, where Mitchell is now the interim top prosecutor in the state’s most populous county.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed Mitchell as interim county attorney in April after her predecessor resigned, triggering a special election to fill the role for the remainder of her term. The outcome of the race will determine whether abortion will be prosecuted as a crime in Maricopa County, the nation’s third-largest public prosecution agency and home to half of Arizona’s residents. Mitchell is up against another candidate for the Republican nomination in August, with the winner facing Democrat Julie Gunnigle in November. Gunnigal is the only candidate in the race to pledge not to implement abortion bans.
“I have been clear from day one that I will never sue doctors or pregnant people for abortions. End of story,” Gunnigal said last month.
Arizona is Abortion bans date back to at least 1901 — 11 years before Arizona became a state — which has been blocked by prohibition for nearly 50 years. State Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) did asked A Pima County judge lifted the injunction, now that Roe’s decision no longer stands in the way. Arizona passed A separate law in March banned most abortions after 15 weeksIt has been prepared to be implemented from September. Another law, passed in 2021, which confers “personhood” rights on embryos, embryos and fertilized eggs were blocked by a federal judge earlier this month. Both Mitchell and his Republican primary opponent, Gina Godbehere, suggested They will apply Abortion bans apply.
Prosecutors cannot protect abortion access in states where abortion is banned, as health care providers are unwilling to provide services in states where abortion is illegal. But they can use their prosecutorial discretion to decline to pursue charges, shielding abortion providers, facilitators and recipients from criminal prosecution.
Gunnigle has been warning about the threat to abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned the Roe decision, because Arizona had never overturned its old abortion ban. “If Roe v. Wade were to fall overnight, we would have the criminalization of our most basic reproductive rights, and the county attorney would be the person with the most control over everyone’s reproductive destiny,” Gunnigle said. noted In July 2020, when she first ran for Maricopa County Attorney.
Gunnigle lost the 2020 election and began working as the legal director of Arizona NORML, an organization that legalized marijuana. She represented women kept 25 years in the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Registry for using legal medical marijuana while pregnant to treat severe, prolonged vomiting hyperemesis gravidarum. Gunnigle and his client fought DCS’s decision in court and won. Gunnigle is also legal director for the Arizona Poor People’s Campaign, working on eviction cases.
He plans to continue that work, but when When then-County Attorney Alastair Edel announced his resignation in March, Gunnigle’s phone immediately began ringing off the hook.
“Everybody was like, ‘Hey, we still have faith that we can do this — do you?'” Gunnigle told HuffPost. “So, we got to the ballot in 21 hours.”
Gunnigle estimates that her campaign’s volunteer list has doubled in size since the Supreme Court overturned Roe after the abortion impeachment case became clear. “I’ve been communicating to voters, ‘Listen, I don’t want to wait for the federal government to do anything. We know they’re not going to do anything,'” she said. “We have our senator holding back national progress,” she added, Arizona Democratic Sen. Kiersten Cinemas told Democrats. Refusing to remove the filibuster to allow abortion rights to be codified in federal law.
“But if we have a backstop here,” Gunnigle said, “that’s one thing that can really make a difference.”
Gunnigal grew up in Phoenix and returned to the area after prosecuting financial crimes and public corruption cases. “Coming back and seeing what happened in my state during that time and seeing the devastation in our public schools and all this money going to private prisons instead of being invested in our community — that’s why I ran the first time.” Gunji said in an interview.
Shortly before the November 2020 election, Phoenix police arrested More than a dozen protested against police repression. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, led by Adel, then accused the protesters of aiding and abetting a criminal street gang. The local ABC affiliate later broke the story Disclosure that police and prosecutors lied to members of the grand jury to convince them that the protesters were part of a dangerous fictional gang like the Bloods.
By then, Adele was working part-time due to emergency brain surgery claimed He was not fully briefed on the case – which is its lead prosecutor disputed. Adele sought treatment for an eating disorder and alcohol use later that year before resigning in March. Alastair died the following month.”Health complicationsAccording to a family spokesperson.
Perhaps because of the purple state she’s running in, Gunnigal doesn’t refer to herself as a progressive prosecutor, but her policy positions are largely consistent with some of the figures seen in the progressive prosecutor movement.
She committed to “universal and automatic” removals for qualified weed offenses instead of requiring individuals to navigate the bureaucratic process on their own. She opposes money bail, or “wealth-based custody,” as she describes it, as noted by a task force commissioned by the Arizona Supreme Court. Recommended to remove Practice. She thinks prosecutors should heed calls from the community for a public health response to addiction and mental illness and is critical of how prosecutors use gang and weapons enhancements to lengthen prison sentences. She now opposes the death penalty, changing from her previous position that it should be used sparingly for “the worst” cases. She said her position evolved out of concern over the execution of the innocent and conversations with family members of victims who oppose the death penalty.
“I don’t see the things I advocate as particularly progressive. A lot of these positions are Eisenhower-era criminal justice reform issues,” Gunnigle said. “I don’t know where I fit into a broader movement, but I know what the community is calling for. — and they’re calling for evidence-based reforms.”