Back when I covered mass protests and riots in the Bay Area, one of the popular slogans was “no justice, no peace.”
Joe Arpaio might hear that one this evening, but with an entirely different meaning.
Tonight, he is in Fresno, California, three hours to the south, as the honored guest at a local Republican Party fundraiser, but that has not escaped the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU, his longtime legal adversary, is driving a billboard around on a truck, reminding him of what it calls a civics lesson.
As one Democratic Party operative put it on Facebook when he saw the post by the Northern California ACLU chapter: “May he never have a moment’s peace.”
Combined message: No justice, no peace.
The message is timely because back where Arpaio used to be the sheriff, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton has been reading a flurry of court filings telling her that President Donald Trump’s pardon of him is either just or unjust. One was filed by the ACLU, urging the judge not to dismiss the case against Arpaio.
Thursday, Arpaio’s attorneys responded to the most recent motion, by dozens of congressional Democrats who argued the pardon was unconstitutional.
The response carried the now familiar witty and exasperated tone: “The motion is untimely and serves only one valuable purpose, which is to demonstrate that this case is fast turning into the judicial equivalent of an online comments section.”
“Certain members of Congress should reserve their efforts for making real change in their communities, not grandstanding in a high-profile criminal case for publicity,” they added, calling the legal claim frivolous.
“Defendant respectfully requests a ruling from the Court, so that the “comments” section does not continue to grow,” Arpaio’s attorneys wrote.
A hearing is expected Oct. 4.
But in the meantime, neither Arpaio nor his legacy are going away any time soon.
This is how the Fresno GOP announced the sold-out fundraiser.
“Sheriff Joe is coming to Fresno …and the left can’t stand it! The Fresno County Republican Party (FCRP) would like to invite you to the third annual 2nd Amendment Barbecue to hear Sheriff Joe Arpaio, FCRP’s guest speaker. Once we saw the bullying coming from the left and the scare tactics they were employing to attempt to get us to cower, we knew this was about more than law enforcement and the 2nd Amendment … this is now also about standing up against those who want to strip us of our First Amendment Freedom of Speech …just because they don’t like it! Stand with the FCRP against their hate and buy a ticket or make a donation!”
Organizers said the event honors “those in the military and law enforcement who protect Fresnans at home and abroad,” listing past guests including Benghazi attack survivor Kris Paronto and conservative talk show host Larry Elder.
The Fresno Republicans welcomed Arpaio as “a no-nonsense law and order leader, a veteran and a patriotic American. Although he has been maligned by the left, he still stands strong.”
The ACLU had a slightly different take.
“No matter what the president does, the truth still holds,” said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler, in prepared statement. “Joe Arpaio disgracefully abused the community he was sworn to protect, and Maricopa County voters kicked him out of office, teaching him that no one is above the law.”
The billboard is more blunt.
It reads: “Civics Lesson for Joe Arpaio: You violated the Constitution. It protects citizens and noncitizens alike. You can’t escape the truth.”
All this comes one day after another federal court hearing in the class-action, civil-rights, racial-discrimination lawsuit that landed Arpaio in trouble in the first place. That case resulted in federal monitoring of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow issuing court orders to stop arresting people solely on the basis of their immigration status.
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Snow later accused Arpaio of criminal contempt of court for violating that order, and Judge Bolton ruled that he had done so flagrantly.
On Thursday, lawyers for the MCSO, ACLU, and Justice Department all told Snow that a statistical analysis of enforcement stops showed some 35 deputies are still resistant to reforms and demonstrating a pattern of possibly racially-motivated stops.
Overall, the hearing aired a sense of slow progress and cooperation, rather than intransigence.
Federal compliance officers are due to release their latest progress report any day.