The American Civil Liberties Union joined the legal fray unfolding at the federal courthouse in Phoenix over what to do about the presidential pardon of a certain defendant, Joseph M. Arpaio.
Wednesday afternoon the ACLU filed the sixth in a string of unsolicited legal opinions his week, writing that the request to wipe clean Arpaio’s legal slate was “an extraordinary request and the Court should deny it.”
“Arpaio has voluntarily accepted a pardon, thus acknowledging his guilt. Indeed, the defendant actively petitioned for the pardon,” the ACLU argued.
Last month, President Donald Trump pardoned the six-term former Maricopa County Sheriff of any past or potential future wrongdoings stemming from his brand of immigration enforcement. Arpaio’s lawyers urged U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to not only dismiss the case and never let it come back, but to vacate all her rulings in it as well.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed, even after it had successfully prosecuted Arpaio and secured a guilty verdict on contempt of court charges and Bolton’s ruling that Arpaio flagrantly violated a court order. Justice Department lawyers said the case was moot and the prosecution over.
The ACLU joined a group of activists and constitutional lawyers who contend that higher principles are at stake. Vacating the rulings in the case would “gravely harm the principle of rule of law which the court … sought to protect when it recommended criminal prosecution for defendant’s contempt,” the ACLU wrote.
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“Criminal prosecution is an important safeguard against lawless disobedience of court orders,” the civil rights group argued, adding that Bolton’s findings “should remain in place and citable as the plain record of the instant litigation, as a rebuke to Defendant’s contempt-of-court in continuing an unconstitutional detention policy, and as a deterrent to others in the future who might defy lawful court orders in pursuit of personal gain.”
The ACLU, long an adversary of Arpaio, went to blast him for a “history of violating the civil rights” of Latinos and argued that expunging the record was a disservice to those who won a settlement in their suit and would harm the public interest.
Bolton has scheduled the hearing to resolve the case for October 4.