Sheriff Arpaio Admits to Contempt of Court

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio admits to violating court orders resulting from an ongoing racial profiling lawsuit. Regina Jefferies, an immigration attorney, discusses this development in the lawsuit.

José Cárdenas: Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. Sheriff Joe Arpaio admits to violating several federal court orders resulting from a long-running racial profiling suit. Plus, Latinas honored for their role in helping to shape Arizona history. We'll talk to one of the honorees. Learn how the city of Phoenix cleans up graffiti. And in sounds of Cultura SOC, an art exhibition showcasing artwork by Latina artists. Tonight, all this coming up next on "Horizonte."

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is known for cracking down on illegal immigration. Sheriff Arpaio has now acknowledged he violated federal court orders in a racial profiling lawsuit. Joining me to talk about this is Regina Jefferies, an immigration attorney with the law offices of Regina Jefferies. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." You've been on the show before. We've talked about this case before but give our viewers just a quick summary of the lawsuit itself, and then we'll talk about the latest developments.

Regina Jefferies: Well, thanks for having me, first of all, but this lawsuit has been around since 2007. It's been quite a while. It was initially filed by the ACLU on behalf of Latino residents of Arizona, as well as a Latino community group and what's happened since 2007 is actually quite a lot. In 2011, the federal court issued a preliminary injunction, just meaning essentially that sheriff Joe Arpaio was enjoined or topped from continuing to enforce federal immigration law at that time, in anticipation of, you know, further hearings on the matter, and then in 2013, judge snow actually issued a decision finding that sheriff Joe Arpaio had actually violated the constitutional rights of Latino residents of Arizona by unlawfully stopping them, racially profiling. And so the federal court then entered an order, appointing a federal monitor to monitor the Maricopa county sheriff's office, mandating that traffic stops be audio and video recorded and also mandating additional training for the sheriff's office. So it's been a long road but where we're at right now actually has to do with the 2011 injunction that was put into place by judge snow.

José Cárdenas: And we're at a stage in the proceedings where civil contempt is being contemplated by the court for violating court orders and perhaps most surprising thing is we now have the sheriff's office's attorneys, the attorneys for sheriff Arpaio personally, proposing to stipulate that they have been in contempt of court and proposing penalties themselves. All apparently in an attempt to avoid an evidentiary hearing.

Regina Jefferies: That's the general feeling of this. The federal court, judge snow has actually set an evidentiary hearing for April on the contempt issue. So to decide whether sheriff Arpaio has violated the court's orders. And what sheriff Joe Arpaio and his attorneys are doing with this motion that they've filed is proposing to admit or they're actually admitting to certain facts that essentially say he has violated the federal judge's order and proposing a punishment for that in order to not have to go through an evidentiary hearing.

José Cárdenas: We don't need a hearing judge, we admit to everything and we have a proposed remedy so you don't have to do anything. Why isn't that a good solution or is it a good solution?

Regina Jefferies: It would be a great solution for sheriff Arpaio. As far as the plaintiffs' case goes, though, you've got to kind of look at the history and the procedural history of this case. There's not a lot that's gone on. In 2011, sheriff Arpaio was actually sanctioned by the court for destroying documents that were relevant to discovery in this case. There's been a history of not disclosing, not fully disclosing things that sheriff Arpaio was required to disclose by federal law. And so for the plaintiffs, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to say that's fine, we'll go with what sheriff joe says and we'll forego the evidentiary hearing because we don't know all the facts that might come out in this evidentiary hearing. What he's proposing to admit to, we don't know if that's the full extent of what actually happened as far as violations that occurred of this court order.

José Cárdenas: I take it you would agree that what he's proposing to admit to is fairly extraordinary. Unless he thought he faced some serious exposure to criminal contempt charges, you would think he would want to go into court and dispute this.

Regina Jefferies: Right and I think that that's the issue, is that what he's actually admitting to, he's admitting to violating the court order to prevent the sheriff's office from continuing to enforce federal immigration law. He's saying yes, we did violate that order. We did not stop enforcing immigration law when we were supposed to.

José Cárdenas: And as I read the proposed stipulation or proposed findings, he's saying I knew about it, but we didn't implement your ruling.

Regina Jefferies: That's right. And so the question is I think it becomes whether -- what the intent was behind that, whether it was actually knowing, whether it was on purpose. There's a lot of questions that I think are going to be answered in this evidentiary hearing and I don't know that it's going to go the way that sheriff Arpaio wants it to.

José Cárdenas: There are a couple of other things that they're admitting to, a general summary of that.

Regina Jefferies: Another thing they're admitting to is that they didn't disclose in pretrial discovery. So they didn't disclose that there were video and audio recordings of certain traffic stops. So that's another thing, and then also they weren't working with the monitor, the court-ordered monitor they should have been. They didn't disclose certain things along those lines, either.

José Cárdenas: And with respect to the videos and other tapes, as I understand it, one of the issues here or one of the things they're admitting to is that the judge told them to gather that information once it became known to the court but to do so quietly and they didn't do it that way.

Regina Jefferies: That's right. They didn't. They didn't actually do that that way at all. And they didn't inform the monitor that they were doing that, either.

José Cárdenas: So what do you expect is going to happen? Let's assume that I take it for one thing you don't think the plaintiffs are going to agree to avoid -- to not have an evidentiary hearing.

Regina Jefferies: I don't want to speak for the plaintiffs' attorneys but I think it would be hard to say that they would agree to this, especially since, you know, there is an evidentiary hearing scheduled, sheriff joe is scheduled to be deposed. There's a lot more that could come out of this than is in this order.

José Cárdenas: The deposition would be testimony in front of a court reporter, under oath in advance of the evidentiary hearing and they're trying to avoid that as well?

Regina Jefferies: That's right.

José Cárdenas: Let's assume the hearing takes place, and it's scheduled for four days, April 21st to the 24th. What do you think is going to happen after that? The judge has urged the parties to try to settle if they can. What do you think is going to happen?

Regina Jefferies: I think it depends on what comes out in the hearings. I mean, I think that we'll have to see what additional facts, if any come out and if no additional facts come out, then the parties will have to look at okay, what is the sheriff proposing here and perhaps this is a starting point for them, but I think it's really hard to believe that no other facts are going to come out in that evidentiary hearing.

José Cárdenas: So one last question. There are people, the supervisor for one, who are saying just what he's willing to admit right now should be enough to require him or he should step down from office. What do you think is going to happen there?

Regina Jefferies: Well, I think that it also sort of depends on what ultimately ends up happening, whether there are criminal contempt charges or not. The sheriff has been pretty unapologetic about his stances and the things he's done in the past. So having him willingly step down, I don't know if he's going to do that but I think the pressure will mount for sure.

José Cárdenas: Regina Jefferies, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this. It's been going on for a long time. It looks like it's coming to an end. Thank you so much.

Regina Jefferies:Immigration Attorney, Guerrero Jefferies Law Group;

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