Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Lawyers Subpoenaed E-Mails Between Judge Mary Murguia and Sister

Apparently, not even a federal judge and her family are free from the intimidation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his law dogs. I've now learned that Judge Mary Murguia's July 15 order recusing herself in the big Melendres v. Arpaio racial-profiling lawsuit came days after Arpaio's lawyers in the case subpoenaed Murguia's sister Janet for "all written communications" between the siblings concerning Arpaio, Maricopa County, the accusations of racial profiling, and the abuse of the 287(g) program.

Though the subpoenas are not yet available through the federal court's electronic filing system, MALDEF staff attorney Kristina Campbell acknowledged their existence and read portions of the subpoenas to me. FYI: MALDEF, which stands for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is co-counsel on the Melendres case, along with the Phoenix firm Steptoe and Johnson, and the ACLU.

In addition to written communications between Judge Murguia and her identical twin sister, Janet Murguia, who is the current President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, Campbell says that the subpoenas sought all written communications between Janet Murguia and the U.S. Department of Justice, the ACLU, MALDEF, Steptoe and Johnson, Somos America, ACORN, Mayor Phil Gordon, Chicanos por la Causa, Mary Rose Wilcox, "the media," any member of congress, DHS, ICE, and her brother Judge Ramon Murguia, who's a federal judge in Kansas. 

The subpoenas sought the same information from the NCLR as a whole. Campbell said that based on the statements of the defense counsel, she believed the information was sought "in support of the defense's motion for recusal." In other words, it was a fishing expedition aimed at a federal court judge and her family. Campbell commented that she was not certain to what degree it influenced Judge Murguia to recuse herself.

"Her decision came shortly thereafter," stated Campbell. "But it was 27 pages long, so I think she was inclined to do what she was going to do. [The subpoenas] may have just expedited it."

Campbell said she believed the subpoenas constituted "abuse of process." Did she mean that it was a form of intimidation?

"Absolutely," she answered. "When I say abuse of process, that's exactly what I mean, that this was the attempt to get her to recuse herself."

As I blogged earlier today, Judge Murguia disagreed with the motion for recusal on nearly every point of law. However, she ultimately decided to step away from the case "to avoid even the slightest appearance" of a conflict of interest.

"I can't fault her," Campbell stated. "If my family were being attacked like that in a very personal way...I can understand why she recused herself. I wish she hadn't done it, but I respect her decision, and she set forth her reasons very eloquently." 

This is standard operating procedure for Arpaio and his faction: Create a conflict of interest where none in fact exists, throw in a monkey wrench whenever possible, and never balk at playing the race card,

I called Arpaio's chief pettifogger Tim Casey to ask for his response. His mantra was, "You'll have to speak with my client."

But of course, Arpaio didn't write the motion for recusal insinuating that Murguia had a "natural bias" against the defendants, presumably because she's a Latina. That came from Casey, or at least Casey signed off on it. Hopefully, the despicableness of this motion dogs Casey somehow, despite his obvious lack of shame in serving his master.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons