Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department that accuses him and his officers of systematically discriminating against Latinos.
Chief U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver in Phoenix, without ruling on the merits of the government’s allegations, yesterday rejected Arpaio’s request to throw out the claims on legal grounds. Arpaio claimed the U.S. failed to provide sufficient statistical evidence that his practices had a disparate impact on Latinos in Arizona’s biggest county by population.
“At the motion to dismiss stage, a complaint need not allege statistical data,” Silver said. She said the U.S. has alleged “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
The Justice Department, in its May complaint, accused the sheriff of targeting Latinos through pretextual traffic stops as part of crime-suppression sweeps, denying constitutional protections to Hispanic prisoners with limited English skills and retaliating against critics with baseless criminal actions and unfounded civil lawsuits.
The alleged discrimination was the product of “a culture of disregard for Latinos that starts at the top and pervades the organization,” the Justice Department said at the time.
Silver granted the request to dismiss the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from the case because it isn’t a separate legal entity under Arizona law. The judge rejected the county’s request to be dismissed from the case.
“Under Arizona law, the sheriff has final policy-making authority with respect to county law enforcement and jails, and the county can be held responsible for constitutional violations resulting from these policies,” Silver said.
William Jones, a lawyer for Arpaio, declined to comment on the judge’s ruling.
The case is U.S. v. Maricopa County, 12-00981, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).
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