We’re all familiar with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe’s peculiar policies in running his jails—inmates wear pink underwear and socks, and some are housed in tents leftover from the Korean War. He’s tough on crime, as he should be, but for months he’s been battling contempt charges for actions that occurred primarily outside the jails.
Two years ago, a federal court ordered the Sheriff’s Office to stop certain conduct stemming from a racial profiling case that alleged the profiling of Latinos in traffic stops and immigration patrols. Arpaio ignored the order and allowed his deputies to carry on basically as before. The judge also ordered him to provide information allegedly withheld from the plaintiffs in that profiling case.
Arpaio was then slapped with an order to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for ignoring the orders. A civil contempt hearing began in April in Phoenix’s federal court but was continued for months as plaintiffs’ attorneys maintained they did not receive all the discovery to which they were entitled. Since then, the attorneys have weekly conferences with the court to assure they are getting the documents and other evidence needed before resuming the hearing on September 22. Meanwhile, Arpaio’s attorneys are due back in court today for their weekly conference.
Yesterday it was reported that a separate federal judge has signed off on a settlement agreement in a separate case brought by the US Department of Justice. That case alleges that Arpaio’s office discriminated against Latinos during workplace raids, punished inmates with limited knowledge of English, and retaliated against judges and county officials who opposed him (he arrested two officials and a judge on corruption charges but the cases fell apart). Details of that settlement will soon emerge.
Finally, one of Arpaio’s attorneys reportedly said they are hopeful of a settlement of the contempt case before Sept. 22.
Phew–what a mess! Arpaio is fighting so many lawsuits it’s a wonder he has time to run the Sheriff’s Office!