A U.S. District Court judge in Arizona granted a Justice Department motion to intervene in Melendres v. Arpaio, a private lawsuit filed against Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joseph Arpaio. A federal court held in May 2013 that Arpaio's department had violated the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its traffic enforcement practices. Later that year, the court issued an injunction instituting reforms to Sheriff Arpaio's department's enforcement operations. Thursday's ruling gives the Justice Department enforcement powers to carry out the injunction and monitoring for future violations as well.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Kappelhoff of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said:
As a party in the Melendres case, the Department of Justice can now work together with the court, the plaintiffs and the independent monitor to ensure that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office meaningfully implements the court-ordered reforms so that the constitutional rights of all people of Maricopa County are protected. The Constitution guarantees that all people receive the equal protection of the law, and the department is now positioned to ensure that this important right is upheld.
The Justice Department has had a parallel lawsuit against Maricopa County and Sheriff Arpaio alleging unconstitutional conduct in four areas:
discriminatory policing against Hispanic persons in MCSO’s saturation patrols, general traffic enforcement and worksite operations targeting Hispanic immigrants
detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment during MCSO’s worksite raids targeting Hispanic immigrants
failures in the provision of language access to Hispanic limited English proficient jail inmates
retaliatory police action against critics of Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO.
Some settlement agreements have been reached in the case, while others are still the subjects of motions pending before the court. Sheriff Arpaio recently attempted to have Judge Murray Snow removed from the case, a motion which was denied. Sheriff Arpaio himself will be facing contempt of court charges in the fall relating to previous violations of the judge's orders.
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