Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, April 16, 2015


Page 1


Court Upholds Racial Profiling Injunction Against Sheriff Arpaio


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a district judge’s findings that Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies racially profiled Latinos, and largely kept in place an injunction designed to end the practice.

The panel said U.S. District Judge Murray Snow did not commit clear error in finding that deputies employed an unconstitutional policy of considering race as a factor in determining where to conduct patrol operations, in deciding whom to stop and investigate for civil immigration violations, and in prolonging the detentions of Latinos while their immigration status was confirmed.

The ruling is the Ninth Circuit’s second in the case. Three years ago, the panel upheld a preliminary injunction barring the defendants from detaining individuals based solely on the basis of “knowledge or reasonable belief” that the person was in the country illegally.

The subsequent permanent injunction, the subject of yesterday’s ruling, was much broader.

Discrimination Suit

The lawsuit was brought in 2007 by individuals and an organization seeking to end what they said was a practice of pretextually stopping drivers who were, or appeared to be, Latino, or whose passengers fit that description. Not only were Latinos being stopped at disproportionately high rates, they said, but they were detained for longer periods of time than non-Latinos while deputies purportedly investigated their immigration status.

In particular, several plaintiffs said they had been stopped during “saturation patrols,” or sweeps, in which the sheriff’s office identified a specific area and then saturated it with deputies for the specific purpose of enforcing federal immigration law or related state laws. As proof of discrimination, the plaintiffs presented—among other evidence—racist emails by individuals urging sweeps of particular areas, including one suggesting that Mesa be targeted because the police chief there wouldn’t act and the head of the police union was Hispanic.

Following a bench trial, Snow ruled that Latinos were illegally targeted during the saturation patrols, and otherwise. He issued a permanent injunction that went beyond the preliminary injunction by barring the sheriff’s office from considering race as a factor in determining what vehicles to stop; detaining Latino drivers or passengers longer than necessary to resolve the traffic violation, absent reasonable suspicion of a criminal violation; detaining such persons for violation of the state’s “human smuggling” law absent a reasonable basis to believe the law was violated; and detaining anyone based on a claim they were conspiring with their employer to violate the state’s law sanctioning employers of illegal aliens.

Snow also found that there had been violations of the preliminary injunction and instructed counsel for both sides to negotiate terms of a consent decree or report back to the court as to what issues they could not resolve.

‘Significant Disagreements’

The parties submitted what Snow characterized as a “general framework” for resolving “significant disagreements” that remained. The judge granted a supplemental injunction that included requirements for stepped-up training, reporting, and supervision, including video recording of traffic stops, along with the appointment of an independent monitor.  

In a separate order last September, Snow granted the plaintiffs’ lawyers, with the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Covington & Burling LLP, as well as UC Irvine’s Anne Lai, $4.4 million in fees and costs. That ruling was not part of the appeals ruled on yesterday.  

The primary arguments raised by the sheriff on appeal were that there was insufficient evidence supporting the extension of relief to conduct outside of saturation patrols, and that the injunction went further than necessary to cure the constitutional violations found at trial.

Judge Wallace’s Opinion

Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace, writing for the Ninth Circuit, said the district judge did not commit clear error by looking beyond the saturation patrols in determining the scope of the injunction.

The majority of the evidence, Wallace acknowledged, dealt with the sweeps. But there was other evidence, including Arpaio’s own testimony, establishing that the constitutional violations extended to other contexts.

The sheriff, Wallace noted, told the judge that his deputies “continue[d] to engage in immigration enforcement even though not using saturation patrols to do so,” that  despite an eight-month suspension in “immigration sweeps,” and “[w]e’re still doing crime suppression concentrating on the drug traffic” in which “we continue to enforce the illegal immigration laws.”

There was also testimony by deputies that they continued “to investigate the identity and immigration status of persons [the sheriff’s office] detains during [all] vehicle stops” irrespective of whether they occurred during a saturation patrol, the judge said.

The panel sided with the defense, however, as to a portion of its overbreadth argument with respect to the appointment of the monitor, Robert Warshaw.

Wallace said Snow’s requirement that the monitor consider internal investigations and reports of officer misconduct created a problem by being unrelated to the constitutional violations found by the district judge.

Judges Susan Pl Graber and Marsha S. Berzon joined in the opinion.

It wasn’t immediately known whether the ruling by the panel would affect a contempt-of-court hearing scheduled by Snow for April 21-24 on Arpaio’s acknowledged violations of court orders in the case. The judge on Tuesday declined, for the second time, to cancel the hearings.

Arpaio and his second-in-command, Jerry Sheridan, have acknowledged the violations and offered to make a $100,000 donation from their own pockets to a civil rights group in a bid to avoid a possible contempt holding. The sheriff’s proposal marked a rare public expression of contrition for the normally unapologetic and defiant lawman.

Warshaw, meanwhile, has begun scheduling public meetings required by the injunction to build confidence in the sheriff’s office and inform the community about policy changes made by the agency.

The case is Melenderes v. Arpaio, 13-16285.


Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company