Allister Adel Is the New Maricopa County Attorney Until January 2021

Allister Adel will be Maricopa County Attorney for the remainder of Bill Montgomery’s term, becoming the first woman ever to serve as top prosecutor in the 117-year history of the job. She will be sworn in this morning at 11:30 a.m.

The county Board of Supervisors selected Adel from a list of five candidates this morning. The search for Montgomery’s replacement began after he resigned on September 5, when Governor Doug Ducey gave him a seat on the state’s highest court.

The appointment comes after two days of closed-door deliberations, during which the citizens committee tasked with vetting applicants and the Board of Supervisors met and interviewed all five finalists.

Maricopa County is the nation’s fourth most-populated county, and its prosecutor’s office is one of the country’s busiest, prosecuting more than 30,000 felony cases annually. Montgomery had been in the seat since first winning election in 2010.

Adel’s appointment likely will improve her shot at winning the county attorney’s race in the November 2020 election. The winner of that race will start a four-year term in January 2021.

For now, Adel has a year and some change to show whether her priorities as county attorney will mark a significant departure from Montgomery’s oft-criticized ways, or be more of the same. Like all the finalists for Montgomery’s old job, Adel is a registered Republican, and has dedicated her career to putting people behind bars. She also praised Montgomery in her application. That means it’s unlikely advocates seeking significant reform and an end to mass incarceration will support Adel during the election next year, regardless of whether she veers away from Montgomery’s methods.

Adel has spent the past several years consulting for small businesses and nonprofits, but before that, she worked for the Arizona Department of Child Safety and for the Department of Transportation. Like many of the applicants, Adel spent time working as a prosecutor at the County Attorney’s Office at some point during her career. From 2004 to 2011, Adel worked in the vehicular crimes, gang, and drug enforcement bureau.

She highlighted prosecuting a case “where an illegal immigrant killed a Phoenix Police Officer” on her resume, and exalted the job Bill Montgomery has done, despite the fact that Montgomery has faced heavy criticism from civil rights groups for allegedly covering up misconduct in his office.

From 2016 to 2018, Adel was the executive director for the Maricopa County Bar Association.

“A prosecutor’s main goal should be to do justice,” Adel wrote in her application. “That may mean taking a difficult case to trial when the evidence supports it. It may mean dismissing a case in the interests of justice. It should never mean to win at all costs.”

Rachel Mitchell, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor known for her role in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, seemed like a shoo-in for the job after some behind-the-scenes management turmoil led to her getting the number-two position in the office this past July. On July 29, the Board received an anonymous letter accusing Montgomery’s old chief deputy, Mike McVey, of being in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

He wasn’t in an appropriate relationship, it turned out — the couple had disclosed the relationship per MCAO policy and she was not his subordinate. Nonetheless, the letter seems to have sparked a change in leadership since two days after it was received, on July 31, Rachel Mitchell took over as chief deputy. Following Montgomery’s resignation on September 5, Mitchell stepped in as acting county attorney.

Now, Adel will take on that role and Mitchell will resume her second-in-command position in the office — unless Adel decides to give someone else the job.

Adel beat out fellow finalists Rachel Mitchell, Jon Eliason, Lacy Cooper, and Gina Godbehere for the job.