Joe Arpaio's Lawyers Fail to Get Sheriff Off the Hook in Justice Department Lawsuit

Lawyers for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio have failed in their attempt to get the Justice Department's racial-discrimination lawsuit tossed.

Chief U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver made a ruling this week on the June motion to throw out the suit against Arpaio, the Sheriff's Office, and the county. Only MCSO is being dismissed from the case, since it's a "governmental entity" -- which leaves the county on the hook for any MCSO misdeeds.

See also:
-Joe Arpaio Lawyers: Discriminating Against Spanish-Speakers Doesn't Violate Civil Rights
-Joe Arpaio, MCSO Sued by Justice Department for Racial Discrimination
-Joe Arpaio's Office Commits Worst Racial Profiling in U.S. History, Concludes DOJ

Perhaps the most interesting claim from Arpaio's lawyers in the motion to dismiss was that discrimination against people who speak a certain language isn't a civil-rights violation.

The lawsuit itself focuses on discriminatory policing against Latinos, and alleges that the practices at the jails discriminate against "Latino prisoners with limited English language skills."

The lawsuit adds, though, that the discrimination was against the "limited English proficient" Latinos, but on the basis of "race, color, or national origin" -- not because they didn't speak English too well.

"Plaintiff cannot maintain these claims because Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] does not prohibit disparate treatment based on language proficiency," Arpaio's lawyers from the Phoenix-based Jones, Skelton & Hochuli law firm wrote.

Those attorneys noted what the exact language of the Civil Rights Act says: "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Judge Silver batted down that claim.

"In other words, the Sheriff argues language is not a proxy for national origin," Silver writes in the ruling. "However, longstanding case law, federal regulations and agency interpretation of those regulations hold language-based discrimination constitutes a form of national origin discrimination under Title VI."

One of the other claims by Arpaio's lawyers was that there was a "failure to allege sufficient statistical evidence of discriminatory effect."

Despite the apparent fact that these statistics do exist -- for example, the DoJ says about 20 percent of MCSO immigration-sweep traffic stops violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures -- Silver cites case law that says stats don't need to be alleged at this stage of a case, nor do they actually have to exist at this point.

The other attempts from Arpaio's lawyers included claims that a certain law dealing with retaliation was being wrongly applied against Arpaio, and a claim that the court couldn't even attain what it's seeking -- to "remedy discriminatory law enforcement conduct" -- citing "interference." Silver didn't buy those claims, either.

Thus, the lawsuit goes on, although the calendar shows that its still in the boring stages in the near future, like the "scheduling conference" slated for mid-January.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley