Best Watershed Moment in Arizona Politics (2013)

Federal Judge G. Murray Snow's ruling in Melendres v. Arpaio

"We do not racial profile," the MCSO's upper echelon has claimed over and over again, while winking at its nativist supporters. In court, the MCSO's lawyers claimed there was no proof of racial profiling. The plaintiffs? They weren't profiled or discriminated against. The ton of stats showing that they do target Latinos for stops and hold them for longer? Flawed, the legal beagles claimed. The racist MCSO e-mails with offensive ethnic humor and derogatory pics of drunken Latinos? Oh, just the guys horsing around. The destruction of evidence? A mistake. It could happen to anyone.

U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow wasn't buying. In a detailed 142-page ruling, he found that the plaintiffs had proved their case: The MCSO had adopted a policy and practice of biased policing toward Latinos. He ordered it to stop. And seemingly overnight, Arpaio's office began to comply. Arpaio is appealing, saying he wants to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. But these are findings of fact, not legal arguments. They are likely to stand, and in the meantime, the MCSO has to do what the judge says. We can't always count on the courts to do the right thing by the people, but in this case, Snow did, restoring our faith in the process and in American jurisprudence. The case is a major one when it comes to race and law enforcement, one that even Arpaio's attorneys concede will be cited by other courts in years to come.


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