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Federal judge upholds Arpaio pardon and dismisses contempt case

[JURIST] Judge Susan Bolton of the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] upheld President Trump's pardon [JURIST report] of former Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio [JURIST news archive] and dismissed the contempt case against Arpaio during a hearing Wednesday.

In a brief [text] filed last month, the Department of Justice stated that there was no prior precedent addressing whether a court should vacate a criminal verdict after the defendant received a guilty verdict. John Wilenchick [professional profile], Arpaio's attorney, argued that the court should vacate the prior conviction in order to prevent parties from attempting to re-litigate the issues already decided in the contempt case. Judge Bolton agreed and vacated the contempt conviction.

Last month, 33 members of Congress filed an amicus brief [text] in the matter, asking the court to invalidate Trump's pardon as an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. The Congressmen argued that the pardon, as it was handed down, was an infringement on the judiciary's powers by the executive branch. Bolton concluded that no such constitutional issues existed and that Trump acted within his powers when granting Arpaio his pardon.

The criminal conviction for contempt that was addressed by the pardon stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice [JURIST report] alleging that Arpaio and his department engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory and unlawful law enforcement actions against Latinos through frequent stops, detentions and arrests "on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and Latino prisoners with limited English language skills are denied important constitutional protections." Friday's pardon is the first in Trump's short tenure as president.

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