Lawyers For Arpaio Seek Settlement In Contempt Case

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Friday, January 30, 2015 - 6:45pm
Updated: Saturday, January 31, 2015 - 4:00pm

Any day now a federal judge is expected to order a hearing to decide whether Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio should be held in contempt for violating court orders. But lawyers for the sheriff are asking to reach a settlement privately instead. 

Judge Murray Snow has presided over the seven-year racial profiling case against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. The case began when a group of Latinos in Maricopa County sued Arpaio over hs immigration enforcement tactics, saying they targeted Latinos unfairly.

In 2013, Snow determined MCSO's policies did discriminate against Latinos and violated the constitution. Snow then ordered sweeping changes at the department, and appointed a monitor to oversee compliance.

In recent months Snow has grown concerned that the sheriff's office has seemingly violated several court orders. Earlier this month, he tentatively set aside four days in April to hold a possible civil hearing to find out if Arpaio and his commanders should be found in contempt of court and be forced to pay fines. At that hearing, sheriff’s officers would be forced to testify.  

But it seems Arpaio may want to avoid a public hearing of that kind. On Friday lawyers for the sheriff asked Snow to schedule a confidential settlement meeting.

The motion asking for a settlement conference was filed on the same day that Arpaio sent an e-mail to supporters announcing his plans to run for re-election in 2016. 

In the email, Arpaio said the 2016 race could be his toughest campaign yet.

"As 'America's Toughest Sheriff,' I've been pushing back against radical leftist, law enforcement-bashing demagogues for years and now is their opportunity to take me down," he wrote.

The message said Arpaio needed financial support since he is up against "Barack Obama's political machine, Hollywood leftists and their millions as well as a hostile local and national media."

Arpaio included a bullet-point list of obstacles he is facing, including, "Rampant, UNFOUNDED charges of racism and racial profiling in my office." He used the same line in a fundraising letter last March for a potential run for governor. 

That statement could potentially be viewed by the judge as another act of defiance by Arpaio. The judge has reprimanded Arpaio and other MCSO leaders over past statements they made that undermined and mischaracterized his rulings, though Snow has also acknowledged the sheriff's right to speak his mind as an elected public official. 

In addition to the possible civil contempt hearing in April, Snow has said he may appoint a federal prosecutor to pursue criminal contempt charges against Arpaio and other leaders. The punishment for criminal contempt could be fines or incarceration. 

UPDATED at 1:09 p.m. on 1/31/2015.