A thorny contempt-of-court case dogging Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio isn’t the only major legal trouble facing the lawman this summer.
The sheriff is scheduled for an Aug. 10 trial in a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department that alleges a range of civil rights violations, including allegations that Arpaio’s office discriminated against Latinos and retaliated against its critics.
The Justice Department’s case is separate from a racial profiling lawsuit filed against Arpaio by immigrant rights advocates. The sheriff lost that case two years ago when a judge concluded his officers singled out Latinos in their regular traffic and immigration patrols.
The profiling case has sprawled into contempt-of-court proceedings against Arpaio for his acknowledged disobedience of orders from the case’s judge. The contempt case has since been put on hold after Arpaio asked that the case’s judge be disqualified.
The Justice Department lawsuit alleges Arpaio’s office retaliated against critics of his immigration enforcement policies and county officials and judges who were at odds with the sheriff in legal and political disputes.
It also alleges the sheriff’s office has discriminated against Latinos in business raids aimed at cracking down on identity theft and punished Latino jail inmates with limited English skills for speaking Spanish.
The Justice Department case also alleges racial profiling by Arpaio’s officers.
U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver is considering a request to let the ruling in the racial profiling case stand as the judgment on the Justice Department’s discriminatory policing allegations. If the request is granted, the agency would still face the remaining claims by the Justice Department.
The sheriff has denied the allegations and called the investigation a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration.
The Justice Department isn’t seeking monetary damages and instead wants an order requiring policy changes.
So far, Maricopa County taxpayers have paid $4.7 million in attorney fees in the Justice Department case.
The profiling case brought by immigrant rights advocates is projected to cost taxpayers $45 million by the middle of next year — and the tab is expected to grow considerably larger.