In Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio, a case that started in 2008, the ACLU of Arizona and its legal partners are representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Maricopa County for racial discrimination against Latinos.
The lawsuit charged that Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office unlawfully instituted a pattern and practice of targeting Latino drivers and passengers in Maricopa County for traffic stops, investigations and arrests based on their race and ethnicity. MCSO’s practices discriminated on the basis of race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and resulted in prolonged traffic stops and baseless extended detentions that violated the Fourth Amendment.
In July 2012, the ACLU and its partners took part in a historic trial in federal court that forced Arpaio to explain his improper and illegal policies and defend his discriminatory policing practices in front of a judge. Plaintiffs presented many witnesses, including Arpaio and MCSO officers, developing hundreds of pages of evidence that showed MCSO acted on racially charged citizen complaints and requests for operations. The statistics from these operations demonstrated that Latino persons were targeted and disproportionately stopped and investigated based on pre-textual traffic violations. These and other actions created an agency culture that encouraged discrimination and permitted racial bias to flourish.
On May 24, 2013, Judge G. Murray Snow rendered a comprehensive and meticulous 142-page decision, finding that the sheriff and MCSO had an agency-wide pattern and practice of using race, and not criminality, to target persons for investigation and detention, and for illegal stops and seizures, in violation of fundamental rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The Latino community in Arizona finally had confirmation of their long-ignored charges of abuse and terrorism by the sheriff and MCSO; communities of color throughout the U.S. hailed this landmark decision. It was the first independent acknowledgment of the illegal and damaging acts committed on a massive scale by Arpaio and his agency. In his order, Judge Snow permanently enjoined the specific practices that violated constitutional rights. Judge Snow appointed an independent monitor and a community advisory board to oversee MCSO’s compliance with the order.
The ACLU of Arizona has been named the plaintiffs’ representative during the remedial period, which will last at least several years, and is working closely with the monitor and community advisory board to ensure real changes takes place within the MCSO.
For more information on this campaign, please click here.
See the attached court documents and monitor's reports below.