Federal Judge G. Murray Snow recently told Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that he wanted the sheriff to have some "skin in the game" in regards to an upcoming civil contempt trial of Arpaio and four other current and former MCSO honchos set for April 21-24.
But when it comes to Arpaio's racial-profiling ways, his admission of contempt of Judge Snow's orders in the big civil rights case Melendres v. Arpaio, and his abuses of power under the color of law, county taxpayers have had plenty of skin in the game from jump.
To date, according to Maricopa County's Office of Management and Budget, the ACLU's big civil rights lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio, and a related lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. v. Maricopa County, have cost taxpayers more than $14.2 million.
This total does not include the cost of new equipment and training for the MCSO, which are required by Snow's order in Melendres.
Nor does it include the cost of the four-day civil trial to come, payments to be made to plaintiffs for legal work ordered by the court, and the final cost of a county-supported kitty, which Arpaio has suggested start at $350,000, to be paid out to those individuals illegally detained as a result of Arpaio's deputies not adhering to a 2011 order from Snow in the case.
See, when Arpaio loses a lawsuit, like he did in May 2013 in Melendres, taxpayers are not only on the hook for the legal fees of the defense, but for the plaintiffs as well.
From December of 2007 to the present date, Arpaio's defense in Melendres has cost more than $2.3 million. About $1.6 million of that has gone to the law firm of Arpaio's former counsel in Melendres, Tim Casey.
In September 2014, Snow awarded legal fees to the plaintiffs' attorneys in Melendres, including lawyers from the ACLU, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the California firm of Covington & Burling, which did the bulk of the legal work.
Total: $4.5 million to plaintiffs' attorneys. Of that, around $3.5 million went to Covington.
When Snow awarded the money, he noted that the ACLU had trouble recruiting a firm to replace its former litigation partner in the case, Steptoe & Johnson.
Also, there was no promise of a win. If Arpaio had prevailed instead, Covington, the ACLU and MALDEF would have gotten bupkis.
"The court recognizes that Covington incurred a substantial risk of receiving no reimbursement for its services in agreeing to undertake this case," Snow wrote at the time.
As part of his judgment in Melendres, Snow ordered reforms, retraining, new equipment, and a monitor, Robert Warshaw, to oversee the changes.
Since Warshaw was appointed by Snow in January 2014, Warshaw's team has billed the county more than $2.6 million.
That's included in the $14.2 million total above.
The DOJ case has yet to go to trial or be otherwise resolved. To date, the defense in U.S. v. Maricopa County has cost the county about $4.8 million.
No way of knowing how deep that dark hole will go.
Ditto for Melendres.
According to Snow's October 2013 order in Melendres, the MCSO will have to be in "full and effective compliance" of his final order for "no less than three consecutive years" before the MCSO can ask to be released from all or part of it.
Meaning, Warshaw's tab with the county is guaranteed to increase.
The last report from the monitor, dated December 15, 2014, states that "MCSO is only in compliance with 14 of 87 paragraphs" of Judge Snow's order. A new monitor's report is due out soon.
During a recent hearing, Snow seemed receptive to Arpaio's suggestion of a $350,000 taxpayer-funded pool of money to address those stopped in violation of the court's 2011 order, which enjoined the MCSO from enforcing civil immigration law and detaining people under the belief -- often because of race, language, etc. -- that they were in the country illegally.
But at this point, no one knows how many people were stopped from December 2011 on, while the MCSO repeatedly violated the court's injunction.
In that hearing, Snow told Arpaio's current civil counsel Michele Iafrate the following:
"So, you know, you may well, for example, Ms. Iafrate, in your motion you've suggested funding to the tune of $350,000, and more if necessary. But I guess the point I'm making is I don't see how I can cut off the rights of any potential victim of the misconduct at any particular dollar amount as a part of this contempt proceeding."
Snow also asked Iafrate, hypothetically, "What if it ends up being millions of dollars that are required as a matter of liability?"
In a subsequent discussion with attorney Doug Irish, who was present representing the county, Snow told Irish that when it comes to claims arising from Arpaio's contempt, "At the end of the day, the County is going to be holding the bag."
Snow has made clear that the violations may be referred to another judge for criminal contempt proceedings, after the civil trial has concluded.
Arpaio has a criminal attorney, former U.S. Attorney Mel McDonald, but the county tells me it is not paying for Arpaio's possible criminal defense, though McDonald's firm has done some work on Melendres in the past couple of years.
The sheriff also has suggested that he and other defendants shell out $100,000 to an as-yet unnamed Hispanic civil rights organization, as a kind of punitive payment. Snow seemed to like the idea, especially if it came from Arpaio's pocket, and not the "Joe Arpaio Legal Defense Fund."
That would be Arpaio's "skin in the game," supposedly.
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Which is nothing compared to what Arpaio's shenanigans have cost county taxpayers in these two cases.
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