This lawsuit was the result of an investigation launched by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2009 into the alleged targeting and unconstitutional treatment of Latinos by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Prior to this case, the DOJ filed a related lawsuit in September 2010 against Maricopa County under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the Sheriff's Office's failure to cooperate with the DOJ investigation (PN-AZ-0001 of this Clearinghouse
). Maricopa County settled that lawsuit in June 2011, and agreed to cooperate.
On December 15, 2011, a findings letter reporting the result of the investigation was issued by the DOJ. The letter found that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) was engaged in an unconstitutional pattern of policing. The DOJ found that the MSCO profiles Latinos, and unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos. The DOJ also found that services in the Maricopa County Jail for people of limited English proficiency are sub-par or nonexistent. The DOJ found that these problems are underscored by the lack of policy or procedure to ensure constitutional policing.
On May 10, 2012, the DOJ filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Maricopa County and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Specifically, the DOJ's complaint alleged that:
- (1) the MSCO's policies and practices discriminated against Latino persons;
- (2) the MSCO targeted Latino workers
for enforcement of state identity theft laws resulting in the seizure of Latino persons at worksites without reasonable suspicion;
- (3) the MSCO's discriminatory law enforcements practices violated Title VI;
- (4) the County's jails discriminated against limited English proficiency Latino prisoners in violation of Title VI;
- (5) the County and MSCO were violating their Title VI contractual assurances; and
- (6) the County and MSCO retaliated against persons in Maricopa County on the basis of their protected speech.
The DOJ requested injunctive and declaratory relief to stop Maricopa County's alleged pattern or practice of depriving Latino persons of their constitutional rights and discrimination against Latinos in violation of Title VI.
On December 12, 2012, Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the MCSO from the case, ruling the MCSO was not an entity that could sue or be sued, but denied Defendants' motion to dismiss the case.
On September 4, 2014, after lengthy discovery, proceedings were held before Judge Silver in which both parties informed the court that they would be filing dispositive motions. On October 27, the DOJ filed its motion for summary judgment, arguing that the Defendants were precluded by collateral estoppel from re-litigating the issue of whether the MSCO's traffic stops constituted a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The DOJ claimed that the issue had already been decided against the MSCO in Melendres v. Arpaio
, where the MCSO was a defendant. 989 F. Supp. 2d 822 (D. Ariz. 2013) (PN-AZ-0003 in this Clearinghouse
). On the same day, the Defendants made a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that neither Title VI nor § 14141 authorized this suit against Maricopa County. On June 15, 2015, Judge Silver issued an order granting the DOJ's motion with respect to the traffic stops and denying the Defendants' motion.
On July 15, 2015, Judge Silver ordered the parties to file a joint statement setting forth what issues still remained for trial. In response, on July 17, the parties filed a joint motion to approve a settlement agreement regarding the second, fourth, and sixth claims for relief from the DOJ's complaint. The MSCO agreed to stop unconstitutionally enforcing state identity theft laws and develop an anti-retaliation policy. On July 20, the DOJ moved to stay this action until the court in Melendres
(PN-AZ-0003 in this Clearinghouse
), where the DOJ had recently intervened, found that the defendants had maintained compliance with an injunction. However, the defendants argued this was inappropriate since the DOJ's motion to intervene in Melendres
claimed the DOJ would terminate this case if the motion was granted. On September 2, 2015, Judge Silver granted the parties' joint motion to approve the settlement agreement, but agreed with the defendants that the DOJ was required to terminate this case and pursue further relief in the Melendres
action. Judge Silver ordered the clerk to enter judgment in favor of the DOJ for the first, third, and fifth claims and enter the settlement agreement for the second, fourth, and sixth claims.
On December 30, 2015, the defendants appealed this case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit has not yet ruled on the defendants' appeal.Blase Kearney - 05/14/2012
John He - 02/05/2016