Is Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona in contempt over racial profiling?

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, shown in 2013, has acknowledged that he violated federal court orders in a racial profiling case.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, shown in 2013, has acknowledged that he violated federal court orders in a racial profiling case.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow ruled two years ago that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had systematically profiled Latinos during traffic stops, prioritizing the targeting of people in the country illegally on civil violations over fighting crime.

Arpaio is facing a civil trial on profiling. A series of hearings continues this week to determine whether the sheriff provided the Justice Department with the information its lawyers say they need to monitor him effectively.

Here are five things Arpaio has done since Snow’s 142-page ruling:


1. Openly defied it

Arpaio and his deputies did not obey the order to stop profiling Latinos. “After [the Justice Department] went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite,” Arpaio told supporters in Houston.

Snow now has to decide whether to hold Arpaio in contempt of court for violating the order. The question is, did Arpaio violate it intentionally? His previous statements could come into play during Snow’s deliberations. If Snow finds that Arpaio intentionally violated his court order, the judge can refer him for criminal charges.

2. Refused to provide a federal monitor with information, then promised he would

Snow had assigned a federal monitor to ensure the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s compliance with his order. For months, the monitor complained that Arpaio’s office was not supplying information that could help with oversight.

In July, Snow ordered U.S. marshals to seize hundreds of documents and approximately 50 hard drives from the sheriff’s office.


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The documents included more than 1,500 driver’s licenses, mostly belonging to Latinos, that had been scheduled for destruction. The hard drives date back to an Arpaio scheme to investigate Snow after a Seattle computer programmer promised Arpaio he could prove Snow and the federal government were colluding against him. The sheriff’s office spent $120,000 on the hard drives, and Arpaio later said in court that they contained “junk.”

The documents the monitor requested remain under seal — other than the driver’s licenses and hard drives. It’s unknown what else the federal government has requested. But in a last-minute filing before a hearing last month, Arpaio’s attorneys promised they would fulfill the monitor’s request.

3. Demanded a new judge (twice) and investigated Snow

Arpaio is 1 for 2 in his requests for new judges to oversee his federal case. In 2009, Arpaio’s attorneys argued successfully that then-U.S. District Judge Mary H. Murguia could not be impartial on his case because her twin sister was the leader of the National Council of La Raza, a prominent advocacy group for Latinos. (Murguia has since joined the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Snow was assigned to the case. After his sweeping 2013 ruling that Arpaio was profiling Latinos, Arpaio set out to investigate him.

A lawyer for Arpaio hired a private investigator to look into comments Snow’s wife purportedly made in a restaurant, where an informant claimed she had said the judge didn’t want to see Arpaio reelected.

Arpaio has apologized to Snow for the investigations. His attorneys have argued that, since Snow questioned Arpaio about the investigations in court, Snow is no longer impartial and should be removed from the case. Snow has refused to recuse himself.

4. Lost some of his power

A different judge, U.S. District Judge David Campbell, ruled in early January that one of Arpaio’s chief tactics was unconstitutional.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that it was illegal to deny bail to immigrants in the country illegally.

Then, Campbell criticized a state law that stretched the crime of identity theft beyond what is legal. Arpaio had used the identity theft law to round up more than 800 men and women during workplace raids.

5. Settled other questions of bias against Latinos

In July, Arpaio’s attorneys reached a settlement with the Justice Department on three of four bias claims against Arpaio.

The settlement, while significant, brought up issues that had largely been settled on the ground: that Arpaio retaliated against public officials, punished jail inmates with limited English for speaking Spanish and conducted workplace raids targeting Latinos.

Spanish-language interpreters have been in county jails since January, and the sheriff’s office has disbanded its workplace raid unit.

The retaliation claims center on Arpaio’s actions from 2007 to 2010, when he jailed critical newspaper executives, protesters and even a state judge on charges as diverse as bribery and publication of a subpoena Arpaio had ordered. The county paid out more than $8 million to people who alleged they were wrongly charged.

The largest question remains unsettled: Did Arpaio knowingly violate Snow’s order?

Twitter: @nigelduara

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