PHOENIX — Maricopa County officials declined Wednesday to join Sheriff Joe Arpaio in asking that the judge in the lawman’s racial profiling lawsuit be disqualified from presiding over the 7-year-old case.
An attorney representing the county made a court filing that said it wouldn’t be appropriate for the county to take a position on Arpaio’s request to disqualify U.S. District Judge Murray Snow.
Arpaio’s lawyers said the judge’s questions during a contempt of court hearing last month in the profiling case have created the appearance of judicial bias, saying Snow asked Arpaio about a secret investigation that examined a statement allegedly made by the judge’s wife.
She’s reported to have said the judge didn’t want Arpaio to win re-election, though it’s not clear whether she ever made such a comment.
The sheriff lost the profiling case two years ago and is undergoing contempt hearings for his acknowledged disobedience of Snow’s orders. The disqualification request puts the case on hold and raises questions about whether contempt hearings scheduled for next month will be postponed.
Before making its court filing Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors took a vote on a proposal related to the profiling case during a meeting that was shrouded in secrecy.
County officials met with lawyers behind closed doors for an hour to discuss the lawsuit. The meeting was briefly opened to the public, and supervisors approved a proposal to take actions consistent with the advice just given by their attorneys. The proposal included no specifics.
A person in the room where the meeting was held then joked that reporters would have a difficult time writing about the vague proposal. Laughter then erupted in the room that was filled with supervisors, county staffers and attorneys.