A federal appeals court has found that Maricopa County can be held liable for racially motivated policies exercised under Sheriff Joe Arpaio while he was in office.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stated in an opinion that the county is also responsible for Arpaio’s racially profiling traffic stop policies. The ruling comes after a similar ruling in the U.S. District Court in Phoenix in 2015.
Maricopa County has spent about $141 million defending Arpaio from lawsuits during his 24 years in office, including those filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Justice. $82 million of that went to judgments, settlements and legal fees for lawsuits over deaths in Maricopa County Jails and investigations into Arpaio’s political enemies, among other issues, while $54 million was spent on the racial profiling case upheld Monday in the appeals court.
The DOJ case was a high-profile suit that claimed Arpaio’s department had unfairly targeted Latinos during traffic stops and workplace raids, unfairly retaliated against critics of the policy and provided inadequate services to inmates with limited English proficiency. Many of the DOJ’s suit claims were either settled with Maricopa County or folded into the ACLU suit, which later dropped the county as a defendant with the understanding that the county would pick up any court costs related to the suit.
Arpaio was convicted of civil and criminal contempt of court in 2017 for defying a 2011 order barring racially profiling traffic stops, but President Donald J. Trump pardoned him later that year.
Maricopa County attorneys claimed the county had no control over Arpaio’s actions while he was sheriff. The county has not said whether it plans to appeal the Supreme Court ruling.