The highly anticipated trial over accusations that the Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office committed widespread discrimination will begin as scheduled on July 19, a federal judge ruled today.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow states in his July 3 ruling that he won't recuse himself from the case simply because his brother-in-law happens to work for the plaintiffs' law firm.
Snow notes that it would be in the interests of justice to resolve the case, which was filed four-and-a-half years ago and has already seen the replacement of several lawyers for the plaintiffs and another judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office on behalf of local Latinos who say they were profiled and mistreated in racially charged traffic stops. It's separate from the U.S. Department of Justice probe that found evidence of widespread discrimination under Arpaio, but involves many of the same allegations.
In a case already beset by numerous delays, including those caused by Arpaio's destruction of evidence, Snow was recently faced with the decision on whether or not to recuse himself because his wife's brother, Keith Teel, works as a patent lawyer for the international law firm, Covington & Burling LLP.
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Snow had already pondered the issue of a potential conflict of interest in mid-2010, when the Covington & Burling group took over for a previous set of lawyers. He decided there was no conflict, but didn't tell anyone about his concerns. The plaintiffs' lawyers brought up the issue last month, noting that Teel had no part in the case and would receive no financial benefit from it.
Arpaio could have made a stink over the issue and delayed the trial further, but decided against it. According to an Arizona Republic article about the issue on June 28, Arpaio believes Snow "would give the case an impartial hearing."
Evidently, Arpaio only raises issues of a vast conspiracy by the Obama Administration when he finds it convenient to do so.
The fact that Arpaio thinks Snow is impartial is ironic, since Snow has already ruled that he'll show bias in the case against the sheriff. Not personal bias, of course -- but rather, bias against the notion that the sheriff and his minions didn't commit racial profiling, based on the agency's outrageous destruction evidence likely to support the plaintiffs' claims.