Maricopa County appeals ruling in suit over Arpaio’s patrols to Supreme Court
PHOENIX — Maricopa County has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower-court ruling that concluded it’s liable in lawsuits over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s crackdowns on immigrants during traffic stops.
The appeal isn’t aimed at recouping the millions of dollars that taxpayers have shelled out in lawsuits that challenged the patrols. Instead, County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said the goal is to correct earlier decisions that misapplied laws over which government agencies are the proper targets in lawsuits and, in the process, reduce some of the county’s legal costs.
The appeal, filed on Dec. 6, was made in a lawsuit in which Arpaio’s officers were found to have racially profiled Latinos in traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
This summer, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals noted that it has on several occasions already rejected the argument that the county wasn’t the proper target of the lawsuit.
The county said the 9th Circuit Court made an error in 2015 when it dismissed Arpaio’s office from the racial profiling lawsuit and substituted Maricopa County in its place. It also said the appeals court ruling intrudes on state law that delegates the powers of elected county officials.
Taxpayers in metro Phoenix have so far paid $90 million in legal and compliance costs in the racial profiling case filed over Arpaio’s immigration patrols.
Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court for disobeying a judge’s order to stop his immigration patrols, never had to pull money from his own pocket to pay for legal costs directly tied to his official duties during his 24-year tenure as metro Phoenix’s sheriff. A pardon by President Donald Trump spared a possible jail sentence.
Richard Walker, an attorney representing the county in the appeal, wrote that letting the appeals court’s ruling stand will lead to taxpayer spending “to defend against virtually every case in which law enforcement misconduct is alleged, despite having no effective control over the conduct at issue.”
While the county is obligated to pay costs in lawsuits against its officials, Montgomery has said the county would have to pay for additional lawyers if the county and an elected official each make a different argument.