Frontera Fund News

Lawsuit News Essentials: Arpaio, DACA/DAPA, Arizona Jails


It’s been a big week for lawsuit news when it comes to immigration, racial profiling, and jail abuses. Here are the essentials.

Arpaio (Still) Stubbornly Refuses to Follow the Law

Court monitors appointed in the Melendres v. Arpaio racial profiling case found that MCSO was only 38 percent compliant in the second phase of the court’s orders and 61 percent in the first phase.

“The Monitoring Team has been in place for in excess of two years,” the monitor’s report reads. “We find the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to be unacceptably behind the progress that should have been made by this point in the process.”

The good news is that the MCSO has come into compliance in the areas of bias-free policing and race-neutral patrols.

MCSO also began implementation of body cameras for officers, albeit slowly. They hoped to deploy the cameras in every district by the end of 2015 but by that time had only succeeded in one district.

However, “only minimal progress” was made in the implementation of the Early Identification System, which would bring the MCSO’s attention to problematic behaviors such as racial profiling and unlawful detentions and arrests. This type of monitoring is essential to help prevent incidences like one that happened on March 8, 2016: An MCSO detention officer beat up a shackled and handcuffed inmate

When it comes to properly training MCSO supervisors, “progress remains frustratingly slow, and training did not commence – as we had hoped it would – during this reporting period,” the report states.

Meanwhile, the monitoring team’s extensive watchdog efforts and exhaustive reports (this 163-page report was its seventh) are costing taxpayers millions of dollars. When will Arpaio comply with the law so taxpayers can stop paying for his illegal activities? Better yet, when will he simply throw in his badge?

Arizona Dept. of Corrections Won’t Follow the Law, Either

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking a judge to force the Arizona Department of Corrections to provide timely health care to inmates. In 2014, the ACLU had filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than 33,000 inmates and reached a settlement. But recent reports show the department is not abiding by the court’s terms:

• Some acutely ill inmates are waiting more than a month to see a doctor, while some chronically ill patients have waited up to two years. 

• Inmates are not receiving prescription medication on time.

• There’s a backlog of 1,385 patients waiting to see a psychiatrist.

• Three inmates who committed suicide were receiving mental health treatment “far below the standard of care.” 

Another shocking report reveals Arizona Department of Corrections employees did not properly conduct security and welfare checks on two inmates who committed suicide, then lied about conducting the checks and falsified the records

United States v. Texas

Even as we write this on Friday, April 22, the Supreme Court justices may already have made their decision about the case against DAPA and expanded DACA. But whatever their decision, we probably won’t know about it until late June 2016. 

Oral arguments were heard this Monday, April 18 (we wrote about the key issues in the case here and published an update after Monday here). Justices typically hold a private conference the Friday after the week’s arguments are heard.

But they don’t say “the wheels of justice grind slow” for nothing. The Supreme Court won’t issue its decision until the differing opinions have been drafted, finalized and signed onto by the Justices.

One interesting argument brought up in the case was “prosecutorial discretion.” This acknowledges that law enforcement agencies have limited resources and simply cannot enforce the law 100 percent of the time, so they must prioritize their resources and can’t be punished for that. 

In this case, Congress has provided funding to deport less than 4 percent of the undocumented population in the U.S., so it’s necessary to defer deportation for a large segment of that population. We wrote about John Lennon’s role in influencing and popularizing the concept of prosecutorial discretion here.

Stay tuned: Sheriff Joe Arpaio will be the keynote speaker in an interview-style presentation with Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini at the Society for Professional Journalists conference. Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund will be there next week to bring you the news.