Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Racial Profiling Case Costs County Over $1 Million So Far, with More to Come

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's legal beagle Tim Casey has indicated that the sheriff's office will appeal federal Judge G. Murray Snow's recent decision, wherein Snow found the MCSO guilty of racial profiling and ordered it to stop.

Considering the payday Casey's firm Schmitt Schneck Smyth Casey & Even, P.C. has scored by defending biased policing in Melendres v. Arpaio, I can't say I blame him.

See Also: Joe Arpaio's Racial Profiling Case Costs County Close To $1 Million, So Far Joe Arpaio's Doomsday: Arpaio Loses ACLU Civil Rights Lawsuit, MCSO Enjoined from Racially Profiling Latinos Joe Arpaio Blames Feds for MCSO's Racial Profiling, and Why He's Full of It Joe Arpaio's Top Ten Bigoted Statements

According to Maricopa County, Casey's firm has billed $945,205.96 in Melendres.

Nearly a million clams. Not bad for losing.

Actually, the damage is a little higher, as the firm Ogletree Deakins worked on the case at one time, and billed $80,035.50.

That's a total of $1,025,241.46 that the county's ponied up for the case.

Under federal law, the county is responsible for paying for the attorneys' fees of the plaintiffs in this case, which according to ACLU of Arizona attorney Dan Pochoda are sure to exceed those of Casey.

An appeal will add to those fees, should the plaintiffs prevail.

"If you win on appeal, you're entitled to fees both on the trial, and for all the work you did on appeal," Pochoda explained.

"It's over a seven figure amount now," he said of the amount owed plaintiffs' lawyers. "That's over a five year period with all the law firm attorneys and so forth. But the appeal will be a six figure amount, including costs and fees."

The plaintiffs did not ask for damages in Melendres, only a ruling in their favor.

Assuming Pochoda's estimates are correct, Melendres may have already cost more than $2 million (adding in what Casey and Ogletree have been paid), and if appealed, could cost the county $3 million to $4 million total.

Unlike Casey, whose payday is guaranteed, lawyers from ACLU, MALDEF, and the law firm Covington and Burling, among others, labored at the risk of not getting paid, if the Judge had sided with the defendants instead of them.

As far as an appeal goes, Pochoda called it a "guaranteed win" for the plaintiffs, should the county go forward. He claimed that Snow's 142-page decision was "appeal proof," and contained "no tricky questions of law."

Rather, findings of fact dominated the decision, he said, and it was highly unlikely the appellate court would set those findings of fact aside unless they were "clearly erroneous."

Which is even more unlikely given that the evidence in Melendres came right from the horses' mouths: that is, from the testimony, the documents, and the stats provided by the MCSO, as well as Arpaio's own statements and statements drawn from the MCSO's press releases.

In fact, part of the ruling has already been appealed by the defendants and upheld by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was an earlier order of Snow's dealing with violations by the MCSO of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

In his most recent ruling, Snow found that the MCSO had violated his earlier order. That part of Snow's ruling will be virtually impossible to overturn, and it is unlikely that the Ninth will look kindly on the MCSO's flouting of Snow's previous decision in the case.

As for Casey and the MCSO's spin that the agency's seven years of discriminatory policing from 2006 to 2013 is due to training received by the MCSO's 287g officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Pochoda wasn't impressed.

"ICE could go tell them to go jump off a bridge," he said. "ICE doing something unconstitutional is no excuse for them doing something unconstitutional. And of course, ICE didn't have any advice [for them] on the Fourth Amendment issues, keeping people longer than they should have. In any case, we will win the appeal."

Also, as I've pointed out previously, the MCSO's ICE-spin ignores ICE's suspension of the MCSO's 287g field authority in 2009. At the time Arpaio thumbed his nose at the move by ICE, vowing that nothing would change.

The sheriff even had nativist attorney Kris Kobach come in and train ALL of MCSO's deputies in immigration matters at taxpayer expense.

But today is a new day. No longer defiant, the MCSO has signaled that it will comply with the judge's order. Reportedly, the agency has halted work-site enforcement raids and highway patrols hunting Hispanics. Ads on MCSO vans advertising Arpaio's anti-immigrant hotline are being removed, and the hotline's phone number is down.

Why would the county want to appeal? So it can go back to profiling Latinos and put the signs back on MCSO vehicles?

As is noted on the agenda for a Monday executive session of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Casey and Deputy County Attorney Tom Liddy are scheduled to appear before the board to discuss the case.

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox told me that she could not comment on the meeting and what it may involve.

But as you might expect, the only Democrat on the board is against appealing Snow's decision.

"We need to close this chapter and move on with life," she told me. "And how are we going to do it if we're still in court and still arguing?"

She said she didn't think the county could appeal before June 14, when Snow has scheduled a hearing where both sides will discuss the ruling. At issue will be whether or not Snow appoints an independent monitor to ensure compliance by the MCSO.

(Note: June 14 will be Arpaio's 81st birthday.)

"I'm very anxious to see Judge Snow's remedies," she said. "Maybe he will give remedies that will be acceptable for all. I doubt it [laughs], but I hope that the county will not appeal."

In addition to expenses associated with other high profile trials, like the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial, the county is also having to defend itself against a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit, which covers some of the same ground as Melendres.

(Interestingly, according to Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick, the money paid out to lawyers defending Melendres, ultimately comes out of the county's general fund, not from insurance obtained via the county's Risk Management Department.)

In this day and age, bigotry in law enforcement is not only wrong, it comes with a high price tag.

Will the Republican-dominated Board of Supervisors look at the dollars and cents, as GOPers are supposed to do, and make the right decision?

Perhaps the BOS, which has three new members, should review recent history, and remember how much it ends up costing the county, whenever it meekly goes along with whatever Arpaio wants.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons