Ninth Circuit Court to Hear New Times vs. Sheriff Arpaio Case on Wednesday; Live Video Available at Phoenix Federal Courthouse

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday will take its second look at New Times' lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the 2007 arrests of the newspaper's two top executives..

The Ninth's 11-member en banc panel will hear the appeal this time, rather than the three-member panel that ruled on the case in June. The hearing starts at 2 p.m. in San Francisco, (that's 3 p.m. Arizona time.)

By 1 p.m. Arizona time the day after the hearing, a video of the proceeding should be available on the court's Web site

A live video feed of the hearing also will be shown on Wednesday at the federal courthouse, 401 West Washington in Phoenix, Courtroom 505.

A key issue of the case is whether the Maricopa County sheriff and former special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik enjoyed immunity when they used their police powers to attack Arpaio's longtime critics.

The shocking, it-could-only-happen-in-Arizona debacle began with a tainted investigation and climaxed with the nighttime arrests of Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey and VVM CEO Jim Larkin on October 18, 2007.

You can catch up on the case in our June wrap-up, which contains numerous links for wonks who want every detail.

New Times' lawsuit against Arpaio and the county suffered a setback in 2008 when U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton (who once sued New Times herself) ruled that Wilenchik and Thomas were immune because of their position as prosecutors and that Arpaio was just enforcing the law.

This year, the three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit saw it differently, ruling that Wilenchik wasn't immune and allowing the lawsuit to proceed. The dissenting judge in the 2-1 decision argued that Arpaio, who obviously bore a personal grudge against the newspaper, should be held accountable for encouraging the prosecution and overseeing the arrests.

New Times followed up with a motion to have the en banc panel hear the case, which the court granted last month. The decision by the three-judge panel won't be used as a precedent in the new consideration of the lawsuit.

Click here to see the latest motions that led to tomorrow's hearing. We'll let you know what happens, natch.

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.
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.