By Elizabeth Alt | Aug 7, 2018


SAN FRANCISCO –– The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) withheld evidence and manipulated investigations in a lawsuit over racial profiling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled.

The July 31 decision by a three-judge panel affirms an injunction against MSCO for not complying with earlier directives from Judge G. Murray Snow of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. 

Joe Arpaio was the sheriff at the time of the alleged civil rights violations. | Gage Skidmore via Wikicommons

“MCSO’s repeated bad-faith violations of court orders, and Judge Snow’s seven years of experience with this case at the time he issued the challenged orders, lead us to believe that the district court chose the remedy best suited to cure MCSO’s violations of court orders and to supplement prior orders that had proven inadequate to protect the plaintiff class,” wrote Judge J. Clifford Wallace in the opinion. 

Judges Susan P. Graber and Marsha S. Berzon concurred. 

The decision stems from a class action suit brought by Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, Jessica Quitugua Rodriguez, David Rodriguez, Vella Meraz, Manuel Nieto Jr. and Somos America. The plaintiffs claimed MCSO racially profiled Latino drivers. The lower court found MCSO violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights and issued an injunction with remedial measures.

Yet MCSO did not implement any of the directives from the Arizona court. The lower court found MCSO withheld or destroyed evidence. MSCO also failed to discipline deputies.

So Judge Snow issued a second injunction, giving an independent monitor the authority to direct MSCO to follow the court's recommendations and creating a victim compensation fund for the plaintiffs.

In its most recent opinion, the Ninth Circuit panel affirmed these measures, because “the district court found “MCSO’s constitutional violations [were] broad in scope, involve[d] its highest-ranking command staff, and flow[ed] into its management of internal affairs investigations,” Wallace wrote.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case Number 16-16661

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