Kathryn Kodor of Phoenix holds a sign of support for Sheriff Joe Arpaio at… (Nick Oza / The Arizona Republic…)
The testimony phase of the federal civil rights suit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has ended and lawyers will be submitting their final written arguments in the next few weeks.
Arpaio, who built a national reputation as a fierce opponent of illegal immigration, is being sued by a group of Latinos who allege the sheriff’s office discriminated against all Latinos and violated their constitutional rights. They argue that the Arizona sheriff’s office had a policy that improperly profiled, detained and held Latinos. The suit is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The plaintiffs contend that Arpaio’s officers pulled over some vehicles only to make checks of the immigration status of the passengers. Further, they say, the department launched special patrols in mainly Latino neighborhoods. The allegations are similar to those filed by the U.S. Justice Department in May. That suit is pending.
Arpaio, in testimony during the trial, denied that his office singled out Latinos.
The case was argued before U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow in Phoenix. There is no jail time or fines involved in the suit; the plaintiffs want changes ordered in the department’s policies to protect Latinos’ rights.
Snow gave the lawyers until Thursday to file their written arguments; they'll then get until Aug. 16 to file rebuttals. There is no jury, and the judge gave no date for when he will rule.
Outside of court on Thursday, lawyers on both sides were upbeat, according to reports of the respective news conferences.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs said they believed that they had shown that there was an intentional policy of discrimination.
“It starts with the sheriff’s correspondence to his chief [aide] and goes all the way down to his deputies who used race to determine how and where to make decisions or how to inquire about immigration status,” said Stan Young, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney.
But one of Arpaio’s lawyers, Tom Liddy, rejected that claim.
“In three weeks, we have not seen any evidence — only allegations, no evidence — that a single deputy made a single traffic stop based on race,” he said.
[UPDATED, Aug. 3, 4:41 p.m.: The suit is also backed by the law firm Covington & Burling, which is representing the plaintiffs pro bono.]
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