Two weeks ago, I reported on a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow in the ACLU's big racial-profiling lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Melendres v. Arpaio. During that hearing, Snow scheduled the seven-day trial to begin on July 19.
After the hearing, outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse, some weirdness erupted when I attempted to ask Arpaio's lawyer Tim Casey about a statement he'd just made to another reporter. Casey asked my name, and when told, stated that I was not a reporter and that I had used "invective" against him in the past.
Casey then stalked off, after refusing to answer an additional query from me (one repeated to no avail by a TV journalist), wondering how much dough he'd scored from his gig on Melendres.
I tagged along with him for about a block and a-half, but he generally refused to communicate with me. Though, at one point, he did perform a sophomoric bit of sign language, which I described in my original post.
This aside, the question concerning Casey's take from the Melendres case interested me enough to put in a public records request with the county for the amounts that Casey's firm, Schmitt Schneck Smyth Casey & Even (formerly, Schmitt Schneck Smyth & Herrod), has billed for services rendered.
The result? According to Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick, Casey's firm, which has worked the case since it began more than four years ago, has billed the county just over $735,000, so far.
Arpaio's mouthpiece is currently a partner in that firm. I put in a call to him at his office, leaving a message, but it was late in the day. If Casey returns my call or otherwise gives me a response, I will post an update to this item.
Casey also defended Arpaio's office against allegations of racial-profiling in the ACLU civil rights lawsuit Mora v. Arpaio. The ACLU ultimately prevailed, scoring a settlement of $200,000 for their clients, Avondale residents Julian Mora and his son Julio.
See, the Moras were zip-tied, held for three hours and humiliated during a 2009 MCSO raid of the Phoenix landscaping firm Handyman Maintenance Inc., where the elder Mora worked. Arpaio's goons were hunting illegal immigrants, but Julian Mora is a legal permanent resident. His son Julio is an American citizen.
Why were they detained? Brown skin, amigo.
In an order issued in the case, the judge ruled that the Moras' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated by sheriff's deputies. Arpaio was forced to capitulate.
But even when they lose, the lawyers always win. At least some do.
On the Mora case, Casey's firm billed the county $136,252. Add that to the Melendres billings, and you're inching your way toward a cool million. One of the many costs to citizens of racial profiling by the MCSO.
The county also supplied me with a spreadsheet of all of the payouts to Casey's firm since 2007. They are varied, and not all relate to Arpaio, but the total is eye-popping: $2.9 million. (Gerchick confirmed this number.)
Sure, lawyers are expensive. And the county often requires outside counsel to respond to different claims against it. I'm not commenting on the competence of the legal work done by Schmitt Schneck, et al., or trying to say they've over-billed the taxpayers.
Rather, what sticks in my craw is that every time Arpaio's boys-in-beige violate someone's constitutional rights, attorneys like Casey make bank.
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Sure, lawyers who represent other scuzzy clients -- drug-dealers, gang-bangers, corporate thieves and so on -- also line their pockets and purses.
What's different, of course, is that with Arpaio's legal counsel, it's the county that covers the check; i.e., you and me.
Other criminals are on their own, while our sheriff gets a free ride, and Casey's firm gets paid.