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Legally Speaking: One step left for Trump’s full pardon of Arpaio

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)

Judge Susan Bolton ruled Wednesday that President Trump’s presidential pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was valid and, as such, she dismissed the criminal conviction against him for contempt of court.

The courtroom was packed. Protesters were outside — both for and against Arpaio — and the sidewalk was lined with hand-painted signs of Arpaio and Trump.

Just another day at the federal courthouse in Phoenix.

But what wasn’t normal was the issue on which Bolton had to rule: Whether the pardon was valid. It is not everyday a judge has to rule on the actions of the president of the United States.

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Prior to Wednesday, Bolton received a large number of amicus curiae briefs that tried to convince her the pardon is invalid. These briefs are documents submitted by persons and organizations that are not actually parties to the case but claim to have some interest in it.

The Supreme Court of the United States receives these types of documents on the cases it decides, but it is not as common for a trial court judge, such as Bolton, to receive them.

Then again, nothing has been common about this case.

Over Arpaio’s objections, Bolton allowed the briefs into the record, read them and then denied what they requested. She ultimately ruled that she followed Supreme Court precedent in deciding the pardon was valid and dismissed the conviction against Arpaio.

That is it. It’s over.

Well, almost. Bolton still has to decide whether all the orders she issued in the case should be dismissed.

Why does this matter? There are numerous civil lawsuits filed against Arpaio for alleged violations of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and some of the orders she issued in this case could be used against Arpaio in those cases.

Bolton is composed, professional, courteous and often has a smile on her face. But don’t let that fool you. She is intelligent, quick and finds ways to get a few jabs into the record.

After issuing her order that the pardon was valid, she stated “The pardon in this case has the affect of having Joe Arpaio escape punishment for his willful violation of (the preliminary injunction order) in the Melendres case.”

She didn’t have to use the words “escape” and “punishment,” but she did. There is no question where she stands and how she feels about it.

As I was exiting the courtroom I heard an attorney state “I want to be her when I grow up.” In seeing how Bolton handled herself and the attorneys in this case, I can understand why.

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