Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has a choice to make: Deny funding to crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio's appeal of a federal
judge’s ruling that his office engaged in racial profiling, or concede
that the supervisors condone his racial profiling. Sheriff Joe Arpaio appeal funding questioned:
[T]he Board of Supervisors refused to take a public stance on the issue last week, with
the majority of supervisors saying the issue is not so black-and-white,
and there are outstanding questions over legalities and logistics of the
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow issued a ruling late last month that the
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office engaged in racial profiling against
Latinos. In his 142-page ruling on Melendres vs. Arpaio, Snow
outlined the constitutional violations sheriff’s deputies committed when
they targeted Latino drivers and detained them on the side of the road
longer than other drivers.
Arpaio’s attorney, Tim Casey, denied Snow’s findings and said he would appeal the ruling.
Casey said the sheriff should determine how the case moves forward as the elected official named in the lawsuit.
“It is my understanding that, because this case does not involve a
claim for money damages and only involves a claim for declaratory and
injunctive relief that relate to the operations of MCSO, that the
elected sheriff as policymaker for MCSO and its operations determines
whether to appeal,” Casey said.
Maricopa County was named in the 2007 lawsuit, but administrators
made the decision in 2009 to sever the county from the case. State
statutes dictating the powers and duties of elected officers give the
Board of Supervisors the authority to “direct and control the
prosecution and defense of all actions to which the county is a party.”
The decision to remove the county from the litigation also could
remove the board’s authority to have a say in the litigation, according
to one reading of the statute, but there is not widespread agreement.
The board last Monday held a closed-door meeting on the ruling with
Casey and Deputy County Attorney Tom Liddy. It was the first of what is
expected to be a series of private board meetings on the issue. State
law allows public bodies to meet behind closed doors in limited
circumstances, such as to obtain legal advice by invoking
* * *
The newly elected supervisors have wanted to resolve outstanding
legal cases involving conflict among elected offices from recent years
of political fights. In the past five months, the board settled three
long-standing lawsuits involving the Sheriff’s Office and former County
Attorney Andrew Thomas, agreeing to pay $3 million in an effort to move
past lingering legal conflicts.
The Melendres case is the first major legal case that would test the new supervisors’ political leadership and how they would shape the course of a high-profile case that has brought national attention to county leaders.
A group of 33 Latino legislators from the House and the Senate wrote a
letter urging the board not to fund the appeal of Snow’s ruling and to
instead implement a remediation plan. The legislators proposed their own
remediation plan for the board to consider.
To date, Maricopa County has spent $1,025,241 to defend Arpaio in the Melendres case.
The board is not a party to the lawsuit, so it is unclear how much of
a say it has on whether to appeal. But the board oversees the budget
and typically makes the final funding decisions for settlements and
appeals in lawsuits against the county and elected officials.
“As such, you play an important role in mending the rift in this
county that was caused by the illegal racial profiling by the Maricopa
County Sheriff’s Office,” legislators wrote in the joint letter.
* * *
While the sheriff has rights as an independently elected county
official, board Chairman Andy Kunasek said the board would need, and want, to have a say in
some part of the decision to appeal Snow’s ruling. Supervisors would
need to review which, if any, parts of Snow’s ruling they are
comfortable with appealing, he said.
Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, an Arpaio critic and the lone Democrat
on the five-member board, opposed an appeal. She said the county would
be better off spending the money on implementing remedies and monitoring
the Sheriff’s Office. After reading the ruling, Wilcox said she
believed there is no room to appeal.
“I really think we should move on. I think it would be a waste of
taxpayer money to continue this battle,” Wilcox said. “An appeal, in my
eyes, is that we support the racial profiling practices that went on.”
Wilcox said even if Arpaio were to appeal, she believes the board
should deny funding and let Arpaio figure out an alternative way to pay
for it that would not affect his budget.
Supervisors Denny Barney and Clint Hickman said it is too early to
decide whether to appeal. Supervisor Steve Chucri declined to comment,
saying that he believes he should reserve his thoughts for the board’s
private meetings with attorneys for now and that the case can have
implications on other pending litigation.
Hickman said he considers it the board’s job to ask questions of attorneys and find out its role in the appeals process.
“I do know that it’s up to the sheriff’s department to decide to
appeal or not,” Hickman said. “They’re the ones that were involved in
this lawsuit, but then we need to see what the further aspects of that
Barney said he does not believe paying for an appeal would mean the
board is wasting taxpayer money. Rather, the board would agree on and
fund an appeal if it believes there are points in Snow’s ruling that
need to be addressed so that county leaders can better understand legal
constraints on future operations of the Sheriff’s and County Attorney’s
offices within their mandated public-safety duties.
“The reality is, the only reason we would fund the appeal is if we
felt like there was an actual point of law that needs to be addressed,
if there’s an issue that relates to the police power of a municipality
or a jurisdiction like the county — a subdivision of the state,” Barney
said. “We’re going to spend money to do that.”
These are fair points for consideration. While the Board of Supervisors is not a party to this litigation, it is the party paying for this litigation, and that gives the board the right to dictate the course of any litigation and appeals. One option the board should consider is accepting Judge Snow's order and have the county attorneys enter into a consent decree subject to supervision by the federal court for future enforcement, to avoid the expense of yet another future lawsuit. Put an end to this ltigation.