Marana Municipal Court has transferred a criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct case against Stephen Blomquist to Pima County Justice Court, although a date for it to be heard has yet to be determined.
Blomquist was arrested Nov. 13 on the two misdemeanor charges, and was taken to Pima County Jail. He had walked the route of an easement abandoned by Marana earlier in the year, then mounted the steps to the patio of McClintock's restaurant, where he sat down at a table and was served a beer. Blomquist contends McClintock's is built partially on the abandoned public easement, and that Marana had no rights to abandon it in the first place.
Attorney Stephen M. Weeks of Weeks & Laird, who represents Blomquist, called the move to Pima County Justice Court "forum shopping," and indicated he would file for a change of venue from Pima County Justice Court to Oro Valley Magistrate Court.
"The judge in Oro Valley said the town improperly used the criminal process by previously citing my client for trespassing," Weeks said. "Marana is forum shopping because they didn't like the result that happened in Oro Valley with the judge telling them they abused the criminal process, so they are hoping Pima County will be a friendlier forum for them."
In that prior case, which Marana had transferred to Oro Valley Magistrate Court, Judge George A. Dunscomb dismissed criminal trespass charges against Blomquist, his wife Sharyl Cummings and Theresa Chamberlain, handwriting onto his order that the dismissal was granted "Pursuant to Rule 16.6D as the interests of justice requires it because the charges were an improper use of criminal process."
The judge granted the motion with prejudice, meaning the charges could not be refiled.
Jane Fairall, Marana's deputy town attorney, said the Marana court was responding to her motion to transfer to Pima County Justice Court "with the reason for that being Pima County has concurrent jurisdiction over everything that happens in Marana because we're in Pima County."
In Fairall's motion to transfer, she noted the request was being made because Blomquist "is a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit filed against the town of Marana, which is related to the above-captioned criminal case. Therefore, a potential conflict of interest exists which prevents this case from being handled in the Marana Municipal Court."
Fairall said she couldn't comment about the current case "any further than the official record because it's a pending case."
Blomquist and Cummings recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Marana, its town attorney, the police chief, seven police officers and others. The couple is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages for the alleged violation of Blomquist's civil rights stemming from his Nov. 13 arrest.
According to Weeks, Blomquist was greeted cordially by McClintock's staff that day and served a beer, which was later taken away from him after telephone calls were made to unknown parties and to 9-1-1. Shortly thereafter, police officers arrived, one of whom spoke with McClintock's staff and later arrested Blomquist, handcuffed him and sent him to jail.
"We have the entire thing on audio tape and a good part of it on video tape, and he (Blomquist) is doing nothing but being courteous," Weeks said.
Blomquist had been arrested, but not incarcerated, on three previous occasions for trespassing on the abandoned easement. Blomquist and Cummings were first cited for criminal trespass May 27 when they used the abandoned easement, and again on May 29. Their third arrest, along with Tracy Chamberlain, came on June 1.
Besides the federal civil rights lawsuit, Blomquist, Cummings, Chamberlain and Timothy Blowers are plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit still pending against the town of Marana that seeks a declaratory judgment "determining the easement is still a valid public easement for ingress and egress by members of the public," as well as for a permanent injunction prohibiting the town from citing anyone using the easement.
Those four individuals also are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Saguaro Ranch owner Stephen Phinny, who they say began blocking access to the easement in early 2008.
The easement, essentially a loop road, has been used since the 1960s by the property owners in the area to get into what is now Tortolita Mountain Park, according to the plaintiffs. Another access to the park is off Como Road on the east side of the Saguaro Ranch development.
The lawsuit against Phinny and Saguaro Ranch is now being heard in U.S. Bankruptcy Court because Phinny and the ranch each filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.