Judge Ruling Affirms County Liability In Lawsuit Challenging Arpaio Raids

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 4:38pm

PHOENIX — Ever since Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio admitted he committed contempt by violating a judge’s orders in a racial profiling case, it’s raised questions over whether county taxpayers will have to pay the sheriff’s potential fines. It's not the only lawsuit against the sheriff could result in more liability for the county.

One of Arpaio’s signature efforts used to be arresting unauthorized immigrants in worksite raids for working with a fake identity or committing forgery. Two Arizona statutes make it a crime to use a fake identity to get a job. 

But then the immigrant rights organization Puente, along with others, sued Arpaio, the County Attorney, the state of Arizona and Maricopa County over these laws.

In January, U.S. District Judge David Campbell temporarily blocked Arpaio and other defendants from enforcing the laws on the grounds they are likely preempted by federal law.

Lawyers for Maricopa County tried to argue the county shouldn’t be named as a defendant and shouldn’t be liable for Arpaio’s actions.  They even asked the judge to raise the question with the Arizona Supreme Court.

But in a recent ruling, Campbell refused. That could potentially open up the county to more lawsuits from individuals arrested by Arpaio seeking damages.

In an emailed statement, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery called Campbell’s ruling “unfortunate but unsurprising.”

The County Attorney’s office is appealing the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.