Joe Arpaio Costs Us Another $7.3 Million and Counting in Melendres (Update: Losing Lawyer Tim Casey Responds)
Please see update below with Tim Casey's whiny objection to the legal fees caused by the bad behavior of his client.
Who better to help me inaugurate a new category in this blog, entitled "Bigotry Is Expensive," than the man known for sucking all of the air out of the room and mammoth amounts of cash out of taxpayers' wallets, Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
In case you missed it, Arpaio just cost us another $7.3 million-plus in lawyer fees and legal expenses in the ACLU's big civil rights lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio.
See, according to federal law, the prevailing party in a federal civil rights lawsuit can ask for reasonable reimbursements for the necessary lawyers, experts and so on. And the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in Melendres recently did just that.
In an October 16 court filing, the plaintiffs' lead attorney Stanley Young of the firm Covington & Burling writes that:
Plaintiffs' initial fair estimate of the amount of attorneys' fees and related nontaxable expenses is $7,324,424.20. These fees and non-taxable expenses reflect nearly six years of litigation, which included two years of discovery, motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings, class certification, cross-motions for summary judgment, an interlocutory appeal, a seven-day trial with numerous witnesses (lay, party and expert), post-trial briefing, and, after a favorable result for Plaintiffs on liability, the development of proposed remedies. In arriving at this estimate, Plaintiffs have deducted fees and nontaxable costs previously awarded.
Of course, if the MCSO had prevailed, the ACLU and the other attorneys involved would have had to eat the costs of six years of litigation, including the cost of their time, the experts involved, court fees, and other expenses.
This notice to the court is only an estimate and had to be filed within 14 days of federal Judge G. Murray Snow's final order. A more detailed itemization of costs will come later. The MCSO can challenge the fees or agree to pay and enter into negotiations on the final sum.
This is hardly the only legal bill associated with Melendres. Nor will it be the last.
For instance, the above figure does not include fees and expenses already awarded by the court.
In 2009 it was revealed that the MCSO had shredded mounds of documents repeatedly sought by the plaintiffs, had failed to retain certain records, and had not revealed the existence of others.
As a result, the plaintiffs were forced to redo many of the depositions of key players.
So Snow awarded the plaintiffs the cost of the do-overs, which totaled $94,707.
The plaintiffs can, and likely will, submit future compensation requests during the life of Snow's order, which will last at least three years, but in reality, probably closer to five.
Moreover, if Maricopa County decides to back an appeal of Snow's ruling, despite long ago being severed from the case, the county will be on the hook for its own attorney's fees. Should the plaintiffs win, the county will pick up that tab as well.
Back in June when I checked on billings by the MCSO's lawyer Tim Casey, they were close to $1 million. Added to the previous billings in the case by the firm Ogletree Deakins, the total billings by defense lawyers was well over one million.
Recently, I asked the county for an update on Casey's billings. When they get back to me I'll update this post.
Then there's the actual cost of instituting the changes mandated by Snow and the tab for an independent monitor, who has yet to be appointed by the court.
As I've mentioned in a previous post, according to a report issued in July by the Police Executive Research Forum -- a report submitted to the court by Casey -- the cost of a monitor for the MCSO could be anywhere from $1 million to $2 million a year.
Then there's the cost of new training for deputies and posse members, the video cameras all MCSO cars will have, and so on.
What will all that run?
Well, the New Orleans Police Department is currently operating under a consent decree with a monitor. That city estimates the cost of implementing the decree to be $11 million per year.
All this because Arpaio was bound and determined to ride the anti-immigrant tide. For him, it was fun while it lasted, I reckon. And the general public condoned it.
But now, it's the morning after, and we're having to pay for Arpaio's bigotry bender.
Why, this weekend, he partook of a little hair of the dog, with a sweep in an area of the west Valley that is largely Latino. Putatively, the reason for the sweep was "gang activity," and the shooting in August of an MCSO detention officer, who lived in the area.
Whatever. If Arpaio really was concerned about law enforcement, would he announce a sweep with a dog and pony show for the media? Sheesh.
But Arpaio is not concerned about law enforcement. It's all about showboating. And proving to the media that he's still in charge of his office, despite us picking up the tab every time the old coot goes on a bigotry spree.
Addendum: Here are the stats from the two day operation, according to the MCSO. More details were not immediately forthcoming, but I'm working on it.
37 criminal arrests
8 were booked into the 4th Avenue Jail
37 reports taken
15 vehicles towed
Update 7:47 PM: This evening, Arpaio s attorney Tim Casey filed an objection with the court regarding the plaintiffs' initial estimate of attorneys' fees, writing, in part that:
In the meanwhile, and as a preliminary matter, Defendants state that the Plaintiffs' "initial fair estimate of the amount of attorney's fees and related no-taxable expense" to be sought in the amount of "$7,324,424.20" appears outrageous, unreasonable, excessive, redundant, and otherwise unnecessary.
So saith the man whose legal career has been based upon defending Arpaio's many misdeeds in federal court; i.e., acting as Arpaio's legal enabler. As of June, Casey had billed nearly $1 million in Melendres. And that was not a million bucks of public money well spent, as he lost and lost badly.
The plaintiffs haven't submitted an itemization yet, but as soon as they do, Casey intends to "file a substantive opposition with the Court."
Keep in mind that the longer Casey drags this case out, and the more obstructionist he and his client are, the more moolah he makes.
There is one way Casey can save us money: Have his client cooperate with the court instead of risking a citation for contempt.
However, I don't anticipate that will happen, because if Arpaio didn't violate the civil rights of brown people and flip off the federal court, Casey's gravy train would be over for good.
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