formerly known as Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio
Ongoing Since 2008 - post judgement monitoring 

In a case that started in 2008, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, MALDEF and Covington and Burling, LLP 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 charges that Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) have 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 discriminate on the basis of race, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and have resulted in prolonged traffic stops and baseless extended detentions, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Following a three-week trial in July 2012, Judge G. Murray snow issued a decision on May 24, 2013, finding that the Sheriff and MCSO had an agency wide pattern and practice of using race to target Latinos for investigation and detention, and for illegal stops and seizures, in violation of fundamental rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. In his order, Judge Snow permanently enjoined the specific practices that violated constitutional rights.

In October 2013, a remedial order was entered by Judge Snow requiring the MCSO to develop new written policies in relevant areas including a clear prohibition on improper use of race in law enforcement decisions, increased training for deputies, comprehensive data collection for every vehicle stop, and new mechanisms to communicate with the impacted Latino community. A court-appointed monitor was selected to assess and report on the compliance efforts over the next four years. The ACLU of Arizona has been closely involved with compliance efforts including commenting on draft policies, training curriculum and community outreach efforts by the monitor and the Community Advisory Board in the case.

After various discoveries about improper MCSO procedures related to this case, Judge Snow issued an Order to Show Cause in February 2015 determine the MCSO’s violations and appropriate sanctions for failing to comply with the preliminary injunction in this case, violating their discovery obligations and additional court orders. A month before the hearing was scheduled to take place, Sheriff Arpaio and Deputy Chief Sheridan submitted a court filing in which they admitted contempt of the court’s orders and proposed various remedies. Defendants also proposed cancelling the evidentiary hearing, which Judge Snow denied. The contempt hearing began in April 2015 where the court heard testimony from various MCSO officials including the Sheriff. The testimony included information about the Sheriff’s involvement in ordering deputies to take action contrary to the court’s orders as well as revelations that the MCSO was investigating Judge Snow and his wife. The hearing was scheduled to continue in June but the proceedings were suspended upon the defendants’ filing of a motion to recuse based on alleged biases by Judge Snow. In early July 2015, Judge Snow denied the defendants’ motion to recuse himself. The contempt proceedings wrapped up on November 20, 2015. On May 13, 2016, the court issued a decision finding Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his top deputies in contempt for repeatedly violating court orders. Plaintiffs will submit a brief to the court in advance of a hearing on May 31, 2016 to determine remedies for the violations, as well as possible criminal contempt. 


United States District Court



Case number