Rosalie Lopez, a former tribal judge and a member of the Tucson Unified School District board filed a bankruptcy petition Jan.22, one day before a scheduled libel trial. In her Chapter 11 filing she estimates she owes between 50 and 99 creditors from $500,000 to $1 million. It lists assets between $500,000 and $1 million. Lopez, a Republican, was defeated by incumbent Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva in November. The trial stems from an October 1998 letter to the editor by Lopez published in the Tucson Citizen. The letter responded to a highly critical letter Harlan Ham, a tribal criminal investigator, wrote a week earlier. His letter criticized the Citizen's endorsement of Lopez as a TUSD board candidate and raised doubt over why she resigned her judgeship. Lopez's response letter accused Ham of committing perjury when he testified before her as a law enforcement officer and also of stalking her. Ham's attorney, Alan Ariav, said the tribal prosecutor and tribal police investigated Lopez's allegations against Ham "and found that both charges were unsubstantiated.'' Ham filed suit, claiming Lopez defamed him. The newspaper was not sued. Disposing of the bankruptcy case could take six months to a year before the lawsuit can proceed, Ariav said.
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