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Federal Judge Hauls Sheriff Arpaio Back to Court, Calls Arpaio Out for Defiance of Court Order

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Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, apparently, can’t stop getting into trouble.

A long record of misdeeds finally caught up with Arpaio last fall, when US District Judge Murray Snow ordered Arpaio and his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to cease enforcement practices that use racial profiling to discriminate against Latinos.  To ensure that the department complied, the judge appointed a monitor to oversee the MCSO for a minimum of three years.

This week, Arpaio and one of his chief deputies were hauled back into court to answer for a video in which they were caught deriding the judge’s orders.  As Fernanda Santos of the New York Times wrote:

Judge Snow said that Mr. Arpaio and the chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, had blatantly flouted his order, pointing as evidence to a video of a briefing that the two men held in October for a group of rank-and-file deputies who participated in a crime-suppression operation in southwest Phoenix. In the video, Mr. Sheridan called Judge Snow’s order “ludicrous” and “absurd,” and compared the restrictions the courts had placed on them to those imposed on the beleaguered New Orleans Police Department, whose officers, he said, “were murdering people.”

“That tells you how ludicrous this crap is,” Mr. Sheridan of the judge’s order, as a videocamera recorded his every word.

Mr. Arpaio spoke next, telling the deputies, “What the chief deputy said is what I’ve been saying,” adding, “We don’t racially profile, I don’t care what everybody says.”

At the hearing, Judge Snow took Arpaio to task for neither complying with the spirit nor the letter of the law, and for stubbornly continuing to insist that he is in the right when it comes to his obsession with undocumented immigration.  As the judge told Arpaio:

Whether or not the sheriff likes it, there is a distinction in immigration law that was not understood by the population and, with all due respect to you, it is not understood by the sheriff, which is that it is not a criminal violation to be in this country without authorization….”

In calling the hearing, Judge Snow wrote of his concerns that the leadership of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office may have chosen to present “a paper appearance of compliance” while fostering “an attitude of contempt and subversion” toward the corrective actions he prescribed.

Arpaio’s deputy, Jerry Sheridan, came close to an apology, saying that he was “ashamed of the things I said.”  Arpaio himself remained defiant, telling reporters outside that “we’ll be appealing this case anyway.  Stay tuned.”  Arpaio, over his decades of being Sheriff and incurring countless lawsuits over charges of his malfeasance, is estimated to have cost Maricopa County taxpayers well more than $50 million in legal fees.  He still has a federal lawsuit from the Department of Justice coming up, and Judge Snow has warned that he might slap further sanctions onto the MCSO, for example hiring more monitors to ensure that the department does not discriminate against Latinos.