Arpaio’s Lawyers Hopeful For Settlement In Contempt Of Court Case

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 12:41am
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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and members of his top brass were in federal court on Thursday. Arpaio and three officers were accompanied by criminal defense attorneys.

Judge Murray Snow, who has initiated civil contempt of court proceedings against the sheriff and four officers, summoned all of the parties for a meeting.

The purpose was to plan for the four-day hearing in April when Snow will determine if Arpaio and others should be held in contempt of court for violating court orders in the racial profiling case against the sheriff’s office.

Snow has also said he may refer the case for criminal contempt proceedings.

Attorneys for the sheriff are exploring whether they can avoid the civil hearing and potential criminal proceedings by reaching a settlement.

At Thursday’s meeting, lawyers for the sheriff told the judge they were optimistic they could find common ground with the plaintiffs.

Tom Liddy, who represents the sheriff, said he’s had productive talks with the other side.

“We’ve made huge strides in the last two weeks,” Liddy said after the meeting. “Particularly in the last week.”

But Cecillia Wang of the ACLU, which represents the plaintiffs, sounded more reserved about that progress.

“We will see,” Wang said outside the courthouse afterward. “We have a lot of talking to do before we know where we stand collectively on settlement.”

The judge made clear he will only sign off on a settlement agreement if both civil and criminal contempt of court charges are addressed.

Otherwise the four day civil contempt hearing will proceed in late April. Sheriff’s officers will be forced to testify about their violations of the court’s orders.

The penalty for civil contempt of court would likely be fines, which would typically be paid by the county. Snow suggested in court Thursday he was concerned about the county picking up the tab.

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