Judge Denies Arpaio’s Second Request To Cancel Contempt Hearing

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 6:20pm
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Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

A federal judge has denied Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s second request to cancel civil contempt proceedings slated to begin next week. That means the sheriff and four others will face a four-day civil contempt of court hearing beginning on April 21.

Arpaio and his chief deputy Jerry Sheridan tried to get U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow to cancel the hearing twice.

They even admitted they had committed contempt of court and proposed a series of punishments, including personally donating $100,000 to an organization working on Latino civil rights. But in an order filed on Tuesday afternoon, Snow again refused to cancel the hearing because plaintiffs haven’t agreed to a settlement.

Tom Irvine, a lawyer who used to represent county supervisors and had his share of clashes with Arpaio, believes the sheriff's latest efforts are telling.

“Confession and trying to avoid the trial certainly indicates that there is a fear on Joe Arpaio’s part that some things that will come out that are very, very damaging,” Irvine said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they expect evidence to come out in the hearing that will reveal “intentional” and “extended” violations of the court’s orders.  

After the civil hearing, the judge could choose to refer the case to a criminal prosecutor to pursue criminal contempt charges.

In his Tuesday order, Snow indicated that Arpaio and Sheridan’s efforts to settle the case could be relevant to the decision whether or not to pursue criminal contempt charges.

“In evaluating the need to refer the matter for criminal contempt hearings, the Court will keep in mind that defendants Arpaio and Sheridan expressed willingness to settle the matter prior to the civil contempt hearing by publicly admitting to civil contempt, by voluntarily paying personal amounts to a charitable organization and by seeking to facilitate other terms of settlement with the Maricopa County administration,” Snow wrote.