Judge Jose Padilla says he was racially profiled twice before traffic stops

When Jose Padilla hears about the latest local police "sweep" against Latinos who may be in this country illegally, he flashes back to his hometown of Brownsville, Texas, and "Operation Wetback."

"I can remember the people running from the police yelling 'Migra! Migra!" says Padilla, referring to the Spanish term for federal immigration authorities.

Operation Wetback, which started in 1954, called for a crackdown against undocumented workers and included stops of "Mexican-looking" people near the border by federal, state, and local cops.

Before the program ended after about a year, about 80,000 Mexicans were deported from Texas alone, and authorities estimated that about half a million others had fled for parts unknown.

"The terror was real for all these people who had come over here to work hard for their families," Padilla says. "It was a very dangerous time to be a person with brown skin. Like now."

These days, Jose Padilla is a Superior Court judge based in Surprise, almost within shouting distance of where he once picked cotton with his parents.

Despite his myriad accomplishments, Padilla says he always remains mindful of where he comes from, and of the color of his skin.

He chuckles when asked whether he believes that local law enforcement engages in racial profiling.

"Believe it, no," he says. "Know it? Yes, sir."

The judge cites two personal examples in the past few years and, surprisingly, neither involved Sheriff Joe Arpaio's agency.

Padilla says he was driving his 1988 Toyota pickup truck, which now has 261,000 miles on it.

"I bought it with wide tires on it, makes it looks a little like a low-rider deal," he says of his ride.

Padilla has played guitar professionally since he was a teen (an Ovation guitar rests on a stand in his courtroom chambers). One night after hanging up his judicial robes, he was driving from his home in central Phoenix to a gig at 43rd and Glendale avenues.

"I got onto I-17 and a two-man DPS [state Department of Public Safety] unit started following me from the time I got on until I turned off at Glendale," Padilla says. "They followed me off the freeway and stopped me."

One of the cops finally explained the stop.

"He told me I had extraordinarily bright lights, and gave me a repair order," Padilla says. "I knew what this was all about. I couldn't fix the lights because they weren't broken. They said it was distracting."

He never told the officers that he's a judge.

This happened after the DPS had agreed, as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit, to collect extensive data on its traffic stops.

That federal lawsuit had alleged that DPS officers in northern Arizona had used racial profiling to pull over a disproportionate number of Latino and black drivers.

An independent study, completed as part of the settlement, showed that DPS officers in 2006 were more than twice as likely to search vehicles driven by Hispanics and blacks than whites. Minorities also were far more likely to be arrested and hit with multiple traffic violations than whites.

Judge Padilla had another unexpected brush with the law late last year.

"I got stopped at a stop sign right near the court by the Surprise Police Department," he recalls, shaking his head.

"I was driving my Toyota Corolla this time, and I hadn't violated any moving violations that I'd ever heard of. The cop told me that the plate cover on my license plate was keeping him from reading my plate properly from 50 feet. What? I kept my hands in plain sight at all times. He finally let me go. I was not happy. There was nothing wrong with the plates — still isn't."

Padilla says he later complained to Surprise police officials.

"If someone deserves to be stopped, whether they are brown, white, black, or green, then stop them," Padilla says. "But don't stop me just because of what I look like and because I have wide tires, or because you feel like it. It's very creepy, and reminds me of where my life started,"

Padilla was the youngest of the six surviving children of Jose and Maria Padilla, both of whom died in the 1980s.

His mother was a U.S. citizen born in Christmas, Arizona, a now-defunct mining settlement south of Globe in Gila County.

His father was a bracero from Jalisco, Mexico, part of a "guest worker" program that ran from the early 1940s until 1964 and allowed Mexican citizens to work the fields in this country (and perform other labor). The elder Padilla lived in the U.S. as a registered alien.

Padilla's parents were seasonal field workers and went where the crops were. They moved to Arizona in 1953, to a then-rural section of Peoria nicknamed Dogtown — officially the Varney Tract.

Padilla barely spoke English as a youth, but says he learned quickly at Peoria Elementary, where "there were two classes of kids — the kids whose parents had money and the kids whose parents didn't."

The Padillas picked cotton in the West Valley and worked the grape yards in Arrowhead Ranch. Jose Padilla went to work in the fields, in the afternoons after school, with his parents when he was about 12.

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14 comments
kayloni.jack
kayloni.jack

I got Jose Padilla today in court for child custody. I think the mvd is more people friendly. he didn't care that the father is on drugs and that's who got the child a lazy ass druggy that lives off the government that dos not have a drivers licence or a car. Jose need to be stopped before he gets more people hurt or killed. my child is not safe because of this man and his poor judgment.

mostlyjunkmail
mostlyjunkmail

He is a baby killer and is on the 2012 ballot for for removal. Google him and look on YouTube.

Nbabylight
Nbabylight

IT is an election year and I as someone who knows the blindness and stupidity of this judge first hand pleads with all Maricopa citizens to not vote this idiot back on the bench!!! If Dawn Axsoms case isnt enough to prove that he has no sense of right or wrong then, the keep reading these post.. Go down listen to the people that have come on here and expressed themselves.. THISS MAN NEEDS TO BE STOPPED!!!

KMChafin
KMChafin

Odd that Padilla describes himself as a victim of profiling when this excuse for a human being was deaf to the numerous facts in the Dawn Axsom case! He "profiled" her and ignored her pleas.

This is one arrogant self serving narcissist!.

robin
robin

I am a single mom of four beatiful kids one my youngest got taken from his drug addict, abusive,criminal father to sac calif after i filed for custody.Guess what ***hole judge i got yep padilla the proud latino.He allowed this reckless mental drug addict sperm donor that wanted me to have a abortion to stay out of state with our six yearold son, was givin soul custody while being on probation for drugs ,myself only arrested for defending myself while he was choking me and verbaly abusing me mwhile my two youngest were standin over him screaming and crying yet this so called system put me in jail what away to go to get abused women to come forth u idiots sitting with urbadge and ur black robe u will get urs someday its a friend of mine her name karma i hope each and everyone of u thats torn my kids,myself and the only family our sons every known apart 4 lousy hours supervised for not being a addict or a useless mother or a thief thats what i get with my now 7 almost 8 year old son oh dont forget the whole 6 hours amonth if im lucky wow way to not alienate amothers right and a child u find thats whats best why cause ur a mexican and the lord took ur mom so get everyone back by destroying all these innocent childrens life u are a pathetic, crooked,waste of space its not bringing ur mom back to be a bias prick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jay
Jay

This man is a terrible judge..He sets his own rules and places children and mothers in harms way. I too have had run ins with Judge Padilla. A very egotistical short man who has a complex. He has hurt people and ruined lives along the way. I hope in June 2010 they rotate him to the furthest court house in Maricopa. He is an awful Family Law Judge hands down.

Your Judge
Your Judge

Really? And did Gabriel's race play a factor in you denying the mother to leave with her child in fear of her life? Your stupid decision cost the mother her life. Now the child has no parents you idiot! It's called domestic violence. Maybe next time you'll listen instead of worrying so much about a psycho drug addict father's rights.

Hose B
Hose B

Peoria woman dead after this Judge refused her request to leave the state. Two weeks before she pleaded with him that her life was in danger over a guy gone bad. Her and her child are now dead. Thanks Jose! Counsuling dosn't work for some people. But you'll have to be the Judge of that, ohh, you were!

Anna
Anna

Perhaps Padilla's hispanic background caused him to overemphasize the father's importance in the Dawn Axsom case. Perhaps it caused him to underemphasize the domestic violence. Seems to me that Padilla feels free to talk about other people's supposed attitudes, yet his attitude toward Dawn Axsom in the video clip from the court was condescending, to say the least. Padilla needs to get off the bench.

Jo
Jo

I'm aplaud at the judges ruling on the mother who got murdered. Are society try to get mothers away from abusive situations and move forward with their lives and you just gave permission for this guy to kill her and you did nothing to help this mother. This guy had a past. A voilent past. You placed him in her hands. Why would you give this guy any rights what so ever to this child. Now this child has to grow up in the system. Shame on you Judge.

N.O.B.
N.O.B.

I agree with comment 2. I have had a run in with him in family court and he has been late twice so far. So much for responsible. He seems to look down on those who are not minorities and don't have extra privledges and scholarships to go to school. He profiles others himself. Maybe the new gov will get him off the bench. I found this while trying to research a little about the earing wearing judge. Very un-professional along with being late if you ask me.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

While I despise any form of racial profiling by our government employees, I do find the police profiling of Judge Padilla by his skin color as being beautiful in it's karmic retribution. I have had court-related interaction with this judge, and I have found him to be quite irresponsible with his own unfair profiling of those involved in family law cases. Though tsk, tsk because two wrongs don't make a right. It just shows that ignorance continues to run rampant in our society.

AR Manville
AR Manville

Thank you Mr. Rubin for this different twist to the old story. It should be an inspiration to all that read it. It certainly was to me. Judge Padilla should be the one reviewing what is happening in the MCSO maybe? OH for the record I am not a minority unless you count female. Thank you again for the article.

 

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