Risner, William "Bill"

This interview is with Bill Risner and covers the following themes:

  • Family history and move to Tucson in 1951. Social and educational experiences through high school.
  • Early experiences in Mexico in the 1950s.
  • College at the University of Arizona, followed by law school, an unsuccessful bid for state legislature, and business school.
  • First legal actions as a law student: contesting the University of Arizona’s parking ticket policy and separate systems of rules for male and female undergraduates.
  • Campus protests, first against Tucson Police treatment of the black residents of the Sugar Hill neighborhood, and second in the wake of the Kent State shooting.
  • Bill’s activism against freeways or parkways in Tucson.
  • Failed City Council bid in 1969.
  • Fight against air pollution with the Group Against Smelter Pollution (GASP) and the City’s advisory board on air quality.
  • Lawsuit with David Yetman against smoke easements purchased by the Phelps Dodge smelter in Douglas, Arizona.
  • Legal defense of an El Rio Golf Course protester in 1970.

Part 1 of 4 and was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona on March 30th, 2017.


This interview covers the following themes:

  • Representing a plaintiff falsely accused of rioting at a UA versus BYU basketball game in 1970.
  • Cultural tension in Tucson during the long 1960s, campus protests, police brutality, provocateurs, representing the John Brown Party.
  • Federal prosecution of Martha Sowerwine and Jeff Hoff as members of the Weather Underground.
  • Risner’s defense of marijuana growers and subsequent law enforcement harassment.
  • The Arizona State Bar’s attempt to disbar Risner in the 1970s.
  • UA Student occupation of Old Main during the 1970s and Risner’s suit against UA Police Chief Doug Paxton.
  • History of the marijuana industry in Tucson during the 1970s and the active involvement of the Pinal County Attorney and Pima County Undersheriff in the drug trade.
  • Further details on lawsuits against smelters and the state of environmental law in the early 1970s.
  • Changes in law over the course of Risner’s career.
  • Tucson Police attempt to entrap Risner with drugs.
  • State Bar investigation of Risner for ethics violation and Risner’s suit again the State Bar.

Part 2 of 4 was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona on April 10th, 2017.


This interview covers the following themes:

  • Risner’s 1976 run for Pima County Attorney against Steve Neely in the Democratic Party’s primary election.
  • Reflection on politics in the 1970s.
  • Risner’s growing interest in clean elections and his suit with John Kromko against the City of Tucson regarding uncounted ballots in 1998.
  • The 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election and Risner’s multi-year lawsuits on behalf of the Democratic Party and, later, the Libertarian Party alleging vote tampering in Pima County.
  • The connection’s between economic power and political power in Pima County and Arizona.

Part 3 of 4 and was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona on May 3rd, 2017.


This interviewcovers the following themes:

  • The Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s and Risner’s defense of Padre Ramon Dagoberto Quiñones.
  • The attempted incorporation of Tortolita, Arizona and Casas Adobes, Arizona and the legal and political contest that ensued.
  • The City of Tucson’s attempt to sell the El Rio Golf Course to Grand Canyon University in 2013 and Risner’s ongoing suits against the City to disclose documents surrounding the negotiations.
  • Reflections on changes in the legal profession and City government in 50 years of legal work.

Part 4 of 4 and was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona on May 24th, 2017.

Aengus Anderson