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Arizona sheriff seeks dismissal of discrimination suit

Lawyers for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio [official website] asked the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] in a motion on Friday to dismiss the lawsuit pending against him that claims his office discriminated against Latinos and disregarded their constitutional rights. The motion to dismiss the case comes a month after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed suit [complaint, PDF] against Arpaio for allegedly racially profiling Latinos [AP report], punishing Spanish speaking inmates, and conducting immigration patrols based solely on reports that there were Spanish speaking individuals with dark skin. As part of its suit, the DOJ requested that officers at the Maricopa County sheriff's office receive training on how to conduct constitutional traffic stops and protect Latinos as much as other citizens of the county. Arpaio denies the allegations and believes that the allegations against him are politically motivated as an attempt by the Obama administration to win the Latino vote in the upcoming election.

The DOJ originally filed suit [JURIST report] against Arpaio last month after the conducting a comprehensive and independent investigation initiated in June 2008 under Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 [text, PDF] and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [DOJ materials]. In December the DOJ issued a 22-page letter of findings [text, PDF], which found reasonable cause that sheriff's office and Arpaio were engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and violations of federal law. The DOJ attempted to reach a settlement, but negotiations were unsuccessful, and the lawsuit followed. Arpaio, who took office in 1993, has called himself "America's Toughest Sheriff." In 2008 a federal judge ordered him to take steps to remedy overcrowded and unhygienic conditions [JURIST report] in Maricopa County prisons.

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