Lawyers for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department again told a federal judge Thursday that a group of Latino plaintiffs failed to prove during a civil trial that the sheriff or any of his deputies engaged in racial profiling.
The lawyers filed their second and final written closing arguments in a lawsuit brought by a small group of Latinos who accused Arpaio’s department of discrimination, saying they were pulled over only so authorities could perform immigration status checks.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers also were expected to file written arguments, but they weren’t available by Thursday evening.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys previously said they believe they proved the sheriff had an intentional policy of discriminating against Latinos, and they pointed out that Arpaio sent racially charged citizen complaints to a top aide who planned the patrols.
A seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ended Aug. 2. Lawyers from both sides filed their first round of arguments last week with Snow, who hasn’t publicly revealed when he will deliver his verdict.
The Latino group claims Arpaio’s deputies pulled over some vehicles only to make immigration status checks during regular traffic patrols and the sheriff’s 20 special immigration patrols.
They also accuse the sheriff of ordering some of the patrols not based on reports of crime but rather on letters from Arizonans who complained about people with dark skin congregating in an area or speaking Spanish.
Arpaio has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying his deputies only stop people when they think a crime has been committed and that he wasn’t the person who picked the location of the immigration patrols.
Arpaio attorney Tim Casey wrote in his closing arguments that the plaintiffs didn’t prove that Arpaio or his deputies made any stops based on discriminatory intent.
He wrote that the plaintiffs “failed to meet their burden of proof” and did not show that the department “had a policy, pattern, or practice that was motivated by a discriminatory purpose.”
The lawsuit marks the first case in which the sheriff’s office has been accused of systematically racially profiling Latinos, and will serve as a precursor for a similar yet broader civil rights lawsuit filed against Arpaio in May by the U.S. Department of Justice.
There has never been a finding by a court that Arpaio’s office has racially profiled Latinos, though a case that made such an allegation was settled last year for $200,000 without an admission of wrongdoing by the sheriff’s office.
The small group that sued Arpaio’s office isn’t seeking money damages and instead is asking for a declaration that the sheriff’s office racially profiles, and an order that requires the office to make policy changes.
If Arpaio loses the civil case, he won’t face jail time or fines. If he wins, it could undercut the upcoming federal case.
If the judge rules against Arpaio’s office, both sides would give the judge input before Snow would impose remedies.
Legal experts say those who filed the case against Arpaio have a high bar to clear to convince a judge that there was systematic discrimination in the agency.
They said it’s not enough for plaintiffs’ lawyers to show that a person or group was discriminated against by sheriff’s deputies. To prove systematic racial profiling, lawyers must present multiple layers of supporting evidence, such as testimony and statistics.