Barbara LaWall Joins NLEC

By Josh Marquis
AWA Director of Legal Affairs

Barbara LaWall is unique in many ways. She was the first person in her family to attend college. She entered law school later in life than most, after seven years as a high school English teacher. Courtesy of Title IX, Barbara was in the first University of Arizona law school class to admit more than 4 or 5 women.

Born in the Bronx, Barbara’s father moved the family to a barren patch of Tucson desert, a close 60 miles from the Mexican border, when she was just six months. She’s part of an increasing minority of Arizonans who’ve lived there (practically) all their lives, who attended Arizona schools from Kindergarten through advanced degrees.

Barbara LaWall and her rescue pooch, Sadie.

Like many others, Barbara disliked law school and thought that being a lawyer was not the career she really wanted. However, in her second year, her marriage dissolved and she had a toddler to support. Looking for an immediate law clerk position, the job market was difficult and the County Attorney’s Office was the only law firm hiring at that time. Just as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor started her legal career in the prosecutor’s office, Barbara was hired as a law clerk in the Pima (Tucson) County Attorney’s Office.

“Working in the prosecutor’s office was so engaging, interesting and challenging,” Barbara recounts. “I knew I wanted to become a Deputy County Attorney when I graduated.”

Rookie prosecutors in Pima County then (and now) handled Juvenile misdemeanor cases in Justice Court.  Barbara learned that defendants who committed misdemeanor violence against the family’s or a neighbor’s pet often went on to commit violent felony crimes. She also saw that young people who committed violent animal abuse crimes became the next generation of felony abusers as well. Barbara carved a niche for herself in concentrating on those individuals with a history of animal abuse. She recalls several particularly disturbing animal neglect cases, one in which more than a dozen horses were found starving, neglected and abused, and another when a dog was found wandering the highway skinned alive.

The hoarding, the neglect, the overwhelming abuse, the almost complete disrespect for the laws of man and of nature — that was a real awakening,” Barbara recalls.

In 1996, after working as a deputy county attorney for 20 years, Barbara ran for office and became the first woman ever to be elected Pima County Attorney, the top law enforcement official for nearly a million people. She quickly became a nationally-recognized expert on several criminal prosecution issues, and has received a long and distinguished list of honors and awards. She has earned the deep respect of lawyers throughout the nation for her ethics, her spirited defense of victims and the justice system, her programmatic innovations, her kindness and goodwill.

Pima County is one of the very first district attorneys’ offices in the nation to include a dedicated animal abuse prosecutor to participate in the county’s Animal Cruelty Task Force. Created in 1999, the Task Force coordinates animal protection efforts among law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and community organizations. Pima County has two deputy county attorneys who prosecute felony and misdemeanor animal abuse cases and a judge dedicated to hearing those cases.

Barbara is set to retire in January 2021 after six terms as District County Attorney. Animal Wellness Action is honored that Barbara has chosen to contribute her expertise and passion to our efforts.

“I am pleased and proud to join the AWA Council in its long-standing fight to create a better future for all animals and the people who love them. Together we can work to end needless abuse and malicious acts of harm to innocent animals.”

Pima County’s district attorneys’ office, for which LeWall has served as County Attorney for six terms, is one of the first in the nation to include a dedicated animal abuse prosecutor to participate in the county’s Animal Cruelty Task Force.

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