Testimony In Arpaio Racial Profiling Trial Is Over, But Debate To Continue

By Jude Joffe-Block
August 03, 2012

Photo by Al Macias
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to the media at the Tent City jail the day after testimony in the civil trial concluded.

PHOENIX -- After almost five years of litigation, seven days of trial and testimony from 25 witnesses, the end of the class action discrimination suit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio finally seems to be within sight.

The attorneys will file two sets of closing briefs on Aug. 9 and Aug. 16. Then it will be up to U.S. District Judge Murray Snow to decide if sheriff's deputies had a practice of racially profiling Latinos. But this isn't the only suit challenging Arpaio's tactics.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a separate lawsuit in May that made even broader accusations of civil rights violations. It is before U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver.

UC Davis Law School Dean Kevin Johnson said the fact that this class action case will be decided first is likely to give the DOJ an advantage in their suit.

"The government has a roadmap of what the defense could be to the claims that they are engaging in a pattern and practice of racial profiling," Johnson said.

And if Snow rules in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, Johnson said that finding can be used by the federal government in its own lawsuit.

Snow said in court on Thursday that he could not say how long it would take him to issue a ruling.

Meanwhile, a portion of this case is already being appealed. Before the trial, the judge made a preliminary ruling that MCSO officers could not detain people based solely on the suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants.

Lawyers for the sheriff's office are appealing that decision, and it is scheduled to go before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco next month.