Sheriff Joe Arpaio

  • August 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Daniel T. Kobil, Professor, Capital University Law School

    If Donald Trump issues a pardon to Joseph Arpaio he will likely be acting within his enumerated powers as president, but doing so in a manner that could undermine our legal system and the Constitution. 

    Arpaio is the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who was found guilty in July of criminal contempt for defying a federal court’s order barring the illegal profiling of immigrants and Latinos by his officers. Though he faces potential imprisonment of up to six months, he has not yet been sentenced, nor applied for clemency through the Justice Department process in effect since the Reagan administration that requires applicants to wait five years after completing their sentence and undergo a thorough investigation before they can be pardoned. Nevertheless, Trump has signaled that he plans to pardon Arpaio preemptively because he approves of Arpaio’s harsh treatment of immigrants. 

  • December 18, 2012
    Guest Post

    by Laura Abel, Deputy Director, National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School

    Recently the Justice Department’s groundbreaking civil rights work received a boost when a federal district court allowed it to proceed with its civil rights case against the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio. The Justice Department’s suit alleges that the Sheriff is harming the Latino community in a dozen mean-spirited and unlawful ways, including:  race-based stops, searches and arrests; the denial of health care and other services in the county jail for prisoners with limited proficiency in English; and retaliation against people who dare to complain. The Department’s complaint provides some insight into the human cost. For example, it tells the story of four Latino men, whose car was stopped even though they had not violated any traffic laws:  the officers “ordered the men out of the car, zip-tied them, and made them sit on the curb for an hour before releasing all of them.”  And it explains that in the county jail, officers “routinely make announcements only in English” about such fundamental things as the “time … to go outdoors, receive clothing, or eat.”

    Investigations into serious civil rights abuses have been one of the hallmarks of Attorney General Eric Holder’s tenure. The Justice Department’s investigations into language access problems in state courts and law enforcement agencies around the country have been particularly successful, leading to major improvements in many states.  As a result of civil rights investigations in Colorado and Rhode Island, for instance, the courts in both states agreed to provide interpreters for limited English proficient individuals in all civil cases. 

  • January 3, 2012
    Guest Post

    Over at The Root, University of Maryland Law Professor Sherrilyn Ifill lists some of her picks for "The Best and Worst of 2011” in “Race and the Law.” She continues her list below, with some additional selections from this past year.


    Best Department of Justice Action: The DOJ’s decision to go after Countrywide financial for discriminatory lending practices, culminated last week in a massive $335 million settlement. The action revealed that Countrywide had discriminated against at least 200,000 African American and Latino borrowers, by either steering minority borrowers with good enough credit to obtain prime lending loans into costly sub-prime loans, or by offering sub-prime loans with harsher lending terms to black and Latino borrowers, than to white borrowers with comparable credit profiles. This case is so important because the effort by conservatives to paint the financial crisis as the result of sub-prime lending to minorities, has glossed over the fact that minority borrowers were largely victims, not beneficiaries, of sub-prime loans. Even within the sub-prime market, Countrywide and other lenders recognized that even more profit could be made by falling back on that old American standby – racial discrimination.

    Worst Law Enforcement Official: Sheriff Joe Arpaio is known for his tough anti-illegal immigrant position in Maricopa County, Ariz. Now the Department of Justice has cited the pugnacious sheriff for racially targeting Latinos in his sweeps of communities in which his police force seeks out undocumented immigrants. The DOJ report, the result of a nearly three-year investigation, charges the Sheriff with fostering a “culture of bias” in law enforcement in the county. The unrepentant, nearly 80 year-old Sheriff has called the DOJ report “politically motivated,” and shows no signs of backing down.  Instead, he has announced his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry and vows to run for a fifth term in office. Latinos in Phoenix, where Arpaio has ruled the streets with the kind of aggressive swagger of Bull Connor, have filed a federal lawsuit charging the sheriff with ignoring the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that a police officer have probable cause before stopping and searching criminal suspects.

    Best Law Enforcement Official: Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez  has restored the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to its rightful place at the federal government’s premier civil rights law enforcement organization. Lifting the Department from the depths to which it had sunk during the Bush years, when the likes of Monica Goodling and Bradley Schlotzman turned the Department into a repository for “loyal Bushies” with no demonstrated civil rights experience, Perez has aggressively focused the Department on its core mission – enforcement of our federal civil rights law.  Under Perez the Civil Rights Division has taken on the discriminatory lending practices of Countrywide Financial [see above], is investigating and challenging police corruption and brutality in departments from Puerto Rico  to Portland, and denied permission to South Carolina to impose government-issued photo ID requirements as a prerequisite to voting. Perez is leading the most robust, productive Civil Rights Division in decades.

  • December 16, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Just because the Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s law penalizing businesses for hiring undocumented workers, does not mean the state’s controversial, and exceedingly harsh, anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is destined for approval by the justices.

    In an ACS Issue Brief, Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a Santa Clara University law school professor, explains why the Supreme Court’s narrow opinion in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting issued in May, will likely have no bearing on the justices’ consideration of SB 1070.

    The law at the center of the Whiting opinion, the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), requires Arizona businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure their employees are legally in the country, and penalizes those companies that hire undocumented workers. The 5-3 majority in Whiting concluded that Arizona’s E-Verify law was not preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act, which states that it trumps “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ” undocumented workers. The majority concluded the licensing law, did not run afoul of the IRCA.

    Professor Gulasekaram calls it is a mistake to conclude that Whiting means Arizona’s SB 1070, much of which was invalidated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is likely to be found constitutional by the high court.

    Instead Supreme Court precedent stands “for the proposition that state regulation of employment relationships between state employers and unlawfully present persons is permissible, if the federal government has not otherwise prohibited it,” Gulasekaram writes. That precedent, he continues, actually suggests it is most likely that he the high court will “strike down state immigration schemes like SB 1070.”

    Although both Arizona laws are aimed at making life difficult for undocumented persons in the state, only the law dealing with the employer-employee relationship, LAWA, is not preempted by federal immigration law. Indeed, the professor writes, “federal law contemplates the existence of state business-licensing laws through a textual exception in federal immigration law itself. And, even with this express exception, Whiting is neither a unanimous nor far-reaching opinion. At most Whiting stands for the proposition that state business-licensing laws that regulate employers will not reflexively be struck down.”

    But SB 1070, which requires state law enforcement officials to take on duties of federal immigration enforcement officials, is another story.