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Arpaio to appeal decision in racial profiling case

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that prohibited his deputies from detaining people under Arizona’s immigrant smuggling law based solely on the suspicion that they’re in the country illegally.

Arpaio’s lawyers told U.S. District Judge Murray Snow in a filing Friday that they will appeal the judge’s Dec. 23 ruling in a lawsuit alleging that the sheriff’s deputies racially profiled Latinos in immigration patrols.

Lawyers pushing the lawsuit on behalf of five Latino clients also won class-action status that lets other Hispanics join the case if they have been detained and questioned by Arpaio’s deputies as either a driver or passenger in a vehicle since January 2007.

The judge’s decision further limits Arpaio’s immigration authority after the federal government accused the sheriff’s office of a wide range of civil rights violations and cut off the sheriff’s federal immigration powers last month.

Tim Casey, an attorney representing the sheriff’s office, said the judge’s ruling raises questions about what sort of reasonable suspicion Arpaio’s deputies need to enforce Arizona’s smuggling law. “Do you need it (reasonable suspicion) on one element or on all elements of the law?” Casey said. “We need some clarification.”

The sheriff’s lawyers haven’t yet filed their appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but they told the lower court judge that they intend to appeal the judge’s class-action status ruling and his decision to limit the way Arpaio’s deputies enforce the smuggling law.

“I do think we are on very solid ground moving forward, and we are confident that we will prevail on the appeal,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, whose lawyers have pushed the case in court.

Without yet ruling on the ultimate question of racial profiling, the judge had ruled that the case’s evidence could lead a judge or jury to conclude that Arpaio’s office racially profiles Latinos.

The lawsuit alleges Maricopa County deputies made some traffic stops solely because Hispanics were driving. The plaintiffs say authorities had no probable cause to pull them over and made the stops only to question their immigration status.

Arpaio has denied the racial profiling allegations, saying people pulled over in patrols were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes and that it was only afterward that deputies found many were illegal immigrants.

No trial date has been set in the lawsuit.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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