Joe Arpaio Can be Sued by Detained Hispanics: Judge Grants Class Status in Lawsuit to Hispanics Stopped by Arpaio's Deputies, Orders Halt to Human-Smuggling Enforcement in Current Form

U.S. District G. Murray Snow ruled today that any Hispanic stopped by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies since January 1, 2007 -- or will be stopped in the future -- can sue the Sheriff's Office in a class-action lawsuit. The ruling in the Melendres racial-profiling case also enjoins the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office from detaining any person based only on the belief that the person might be in the country illegally.

At yesterday's hearing, Arpaio's lawyer said such a prohibition would hamper the ability of MCSO to conduct law enforcement in general. While that may have been an exaggeration, it seems clear the ruling will make it difficult for the sheriff to conduct enforcement operations based on the state's human-smuggling law. That law is how Arpaio justifies the saturation patrols in which illegal immigrants are rounded up.

Snow's latest ruling also hands Arpaio's office some minor victories, including the dismissal of two counts regarding David and Jessika Rodriguez, who say they were hassled while driving near Bartlett ake. The ruling doesn't dismiss the case in favor of the plaintiffs, so in that respect it shows that Snow isn't fully convinced -- something Arpaio's lawyer brought up yesterday.

Snow wants a trial to decide the issue, obviously -- but it'll be one in which he's the prime
fact-finder, and one in which he's already signaled in another ruling made public today that he's not happy with the MCSO's dirty tactics, both in the case and on the streets as probable profilers.

If you've been waiting for serious action to come down against Arpaio, this is it.

Here's the ruling:

Class Action Granted

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.