D.C. Lawyers Join Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Legal Team At Unknown Cost

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Friday, October 28, 2016 - 4:17pm
Updated: Friday, October 28, 2016 - 4:20pm
Paul Atkinson/KJZZ
Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe Arpaio used a Washington, D.C., law firm in his latest bid to get the judge who referred him for criminal charges to recuse himself. But how exactly that firm is being paid is something of a mystery.

The firm is called Cooper & Kirk. One of its named partners is Charles Cooper, a well-known conservative lawyer who has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including defending California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage.

Last month, the sheriff’s office asked the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to authorize the sheriff's office to hire Cooper & Kirk and pay them up to $1 million.

The sheriff’s office said the firm's services were needed for appeals in a long-standing racial profiling case in which Arpaio and others were found in civil contempt of court. In 2013 U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow found the sheriff's office had racially profiled Latino drivers, and ordered sweeping reforms to prevent profiling. In May, Snow found Arpaio and three others in civil contempt of court for violating court orders. In July, Snow ordered a new round of reforms to the sheriff's internal affairs division, which the sheriff's lawyers have indicated they will appeal. 

The Arizona Board of Supervisors rejected the sheriff's request to authorize retaining the firm in a 3-2 vote.

But the sheriff’s office hired Cooper & Kirk anyway. An agreement with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for the sheriff's office to use outside counsel in the racial profiling suit also reportedly allowed the sheriff's office to hire additional lawyers with appellate expertise.

The county or the county attorney’s office usually pays for attorneys’ fees — but that is not happening this time. Instead, the cost must be coming from the sheriff’s budget.

Earlier this week, Cooper & Kirk lawyers filed a motion on behalf of Arpaio, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan and Lt. Joseph Sousa asking U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow and his independent monitor to recuse themselves from the racial profiling suit against the sheriff's office.

The request came a day after Arpaio was formally charged for criminal contempt of court. Snow is the judge who referred Arpaio and others for criminal contempt of court charges. The criminal case is proceeding under a different federal judge.

When KJZZ asked the sheriff’s office how much it had been billed by Cooper & Kirk so far, the office said a response could take up to eight weeks. The cost of litigation in the racial profiling case is already estimated at close to $50 million, with more expenses projected in the near term.

Cooper & Kirk are being retained only in the civil racial profiling case against the sheriff's office, and not in Arpaio's criminal case. Arpaio must pay for his own criminal defense.