For Immediate Release
Federal Court’s Orders Finding Arpaio and Montgomery’s Practices Unlawful Will Not be Appealed; County Agrees to Pay Nearly $1 Million to Plaintiffs for Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
PHOENIX, AZ – The parties in a federal lawsuit challenging former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s workplace raids have reached an agreement to end the case. The final settlement provides, among other things, that previous rulings by U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell finding the practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) unconstitutional will not be appealed. In addition, the county agreed to pay plaintiffs $995,157.46 in attorneys’ fees and costs. Lawyers for the county filed a notice of settlement with the court last Friday.
The settlement brings to a close a three-year legal battle to put an end to the workplace raids that tore apart countless families in Maricopa County. In 2007 and 2008, Arizona legislators, led by then Rep. Russell Pearce, re-fashioned the state’s identity theft laws to brand undocumented immigrants as felons for working with a false name or identity. Relying on these laws, Sheriff Arpaio, supported by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, began conducting raids of local businesses. In total, the Sheriff’s Office conducted a total of over 80 workplace operations, leading to the arrest of at least 806 employees. An expert analysis revealed that the MCAO prosecuted at least 1,864 employment-related identity theft/forgery cases submitted by the MCSO as well as other law enforcement agencies between 2007 and 2015.
Under the settlement, Judge Campbell’s orders will remain in effect. Those include a March 2017 order enjoining the MCSO, now under the leadership of Sheriff Paul Penzone, from relying on information or documents submitted to an employer solely as part of the federal I-9 employment verification process and declaring it unconstitutional for any defendant, including MCAO, to use such information or documents in any investigation or prosecution for a violation of Arizona’s identity theft or forgery laws. In addition, the MCSO unit that had led the workplace raids was disbanded shortly after the lawsuit was filed in 2014, and remains disbanded today.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included the organization Puente Arizona and several Maricopa County residents, including two courageous workers who had been arrested and prosecuted under the new laws and local faith leaders. They were represented by students and professors in the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic; the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON); the ACLU of Arizona; Quarles & Brady LLP; Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP and attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado.
Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente said, “We are grateful to the lawyers and law students who embraced our organizing, defended our members, and worked for years without any guarantee of compensation. Maricopa County officials have now been permanently stripped of tools they used to illegally terrorize immigrant workers and families. But the fight continues. Arpaio’s tools are now being deployed at the national level. And his legacy will live on here in Maricopa County so long as ICE is still allowed in the jails.”
In October 2017, Judge Campbell awarded plaintiffs just over $1 million in attorneys’ fees in recognition of their partial success in the case. The County agreed to pay nearly all of that sum, in addition to amounts awarded for plaintiffs’ expenses and costs, as part of the settlement.
“We are heartened to know that organizations and firms that came together to litigate this case will be able to recoup some of their investment of time and resources,” said Annie Lai, co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at UC Irvine School of Law. “We intend to use the funds to continue providing assistance to vulnerable communities in the fights to come.”
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