Judge refuses to remove himself from Arizona sheriff's profiling case

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 10, 2015 11:40 PM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday refused to remove himself from a racial-profiling case being pressed against hardline Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio and his deputies.

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow rejected a motion made by Arpaio's lawyers that the judge recuse himself because his decisions in the high-profile case could be seen as biased.

In a 40-page written ruling, Snow said the basis for the claims made in May by the Maricopa County sheriff and his chief deputy Gerard Sheridan were “legally insufficient and untimely” and that the case should proceed, including civil contempt hearings.

Snow, who has repeatedly expressed his frustration over his court orders being violated, also said that Arpaio and Sheridan have “improperly attempted to invoke the recusal provisions for strategic purposes.”

Lawyers for Arpaio and Sheridan could not immediately be reached for comment.

The attempt to remove Snow brought the long-running profiling case to an abrupt halt, coming a few weeks before a second round of contempt hearings were scheduled to be held against Arpaio and four others.

The judge already ruled in 2013 that Arpaio, who bills himself as "America's toughest sheriff," and his deputies were guilty of acting unconstitutionally by racially profiling Latino drivers during traffic stops, and said the individuals were wrongfully detained.

Arpaio has denied the findings.

Snow also installed a court monitor to oversee the operations of Arpaio's office and ordered changes to prevent a repeat of the offenses.

In February, he ordered civil contempt proceedings be initiated against Arpaio and other past and current top officials for disobeying judicial orders arising out of a 2007 profiling case ordering a stop to immigration enforcement operations.

They face possible punishments of fines, restitution and increased oversight of the sheriff's office.

Snow also has mentioned possible criminal contempt proceedings.

During civil contempt hearings in April, Snow directly questioned Arpaio about investigations that involved the judge’s wife and another probe pertaining to the use of a confidential informant.

Arpaio admitted that a private investigator was hired to check out a tip that Snow's wife was overheard saying in a restaurant that the judge wanted the lawman out of office.

Lawyers for Arpaio charged that the questioning was outside the bounds of the issues that were the subject of the contempt proceedings and questioned other decisions made by the judge.

Snow has scheduled a status conference in the case for July 20.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere)