Maricopa County, Arizona, can be held liable for racial profiling by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The opinion by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Arpaio was acting as a final policymaker for Maricopa County, and the district court was correct in finding the county liable, the National Law Journal reports. How Appealing links to the opinion and to coverage by the Arizona Republic and the Associated Press.
The United States had alleged in its suit against Arpaio and Maricopa County that the sheriff targeted Hispanic drivers in pretextual traffic stops intended to find immigrants in the country illegally. The federal government had alleged violations of laws protecting civil rights and giving the federal government the power to review actions of law enforcement agencies with a pattern and practice of violating federal rights.
The county had argued Arpaio’s policies were not the county’s policies, but if they were, the county wasn’t liable under the laws that formed the basis of the suit.
A federal court rejected Maricopa County’s arguments and granted partial summary judgment to the United States. After the district court’s grant of summary judgment, the parties settled the remaining claims. The 9th Circuit affirmed, rejecting both the county’s liability arguments in an opinion by Judge Paul Watford.
The 9th Circuit also agreed with the district court’s decision to bar the county from relitigating the lawfulness of Arpaio’s policies. The issue had had been decided in a prior class action by Hispanic motorists filed against Arpaio by the American Civil Liberties Union.
After the cases ended, Arpaio was found guilty in July of contempt of court for violating a federal judge’s order to stop detaining citizens based only on a suspicion they were in the country illegally. President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August.
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