PHOENIX — After months of litigation, the ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona reached a successful settlement in a public records lawsuit against the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO).
The settlement requires MCAO to admit to violating Arizona’s Public Records Act and pay $24,000 for the time and resources it took to force them to comply.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2019, stemmed from a public records request submitted to MCAO that went ignored for more than seven months. The records request sought basic public information from MCAO, including who is prosecuted, which crimes are charged, and how long people are sent to prison. It also sought general office policies governing prosecutions in the county.
The ACLU of Arizona obtained nearly all of the records sought, including sentencing data that revealed stark racial disparities in the prosecution practices of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The records obtained also uncovered insensitive MCAO training material mocking individuals with mental health conditions, calling them “crazy” and painting them as liars and obstacles to winning a conviction – not as human beings worthy of respect.
“These troubling findings would not have been made public without nearly two years of litigation against MCAO. The public shouldn’t have to rely on lawsuits to learn what their elected officials are doing,” said ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney Jared Keenan.
ACLU senior staff attorney Somil Trivedi added, “prosecutors’ offices in Arizona and around the country have operated as black boxes for too long, and the result is an unchecked mass incarceration machine that disproportionately tears apart Black and Brown communities. We can’t have a justice system without community trust, and we can’t have community trust without prosecutorial transparency. It’s as simple as that.”
The ACLU of Arizona recommends that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office commit to greater transparency measures in the future, such as posting all office policies and prosecution guidelines online, posting statistical data on all prosecutions online, posting disaggregated data on race and gender online, and making all of the underlying data available to analysts and the public.
The order can be viewed here.
This press release can be viewed here: