Sheriff loses bid to get judge removed from profiling case

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, in a 40-page ruling, said the May 22 motion by attorneys for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was "legally insufficient and untimely"

By Jacques Billeaud
Associated Press

PHOENIX — A federal judge refused to disqualify himself Friday from a racial profiling case against an Arizona sheriff who alleged that questions posed by the judge at a hearing three months ago created an appearance of judicial bias.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, in a 40-page ruling, said the May 22 motion by attorneys for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was "legally insufficient and untimely."

Arpaio's lawyers argued Snow put his credibility at issue when he asked questions during an April 23 hearing about two secret investigations involving the judge that were done on Arpaio's behalf. The sheriff's attorneys said Snow shouldn't have posed questions about matters that involved him or his wife. Opposing lawyers say the disqualification request was a delay tactic.

Snow has dealt Arpaio some of the toughest legal losses in his 22-year tenure, such as a 2013 decision that concluded the sheriff's officers had racially profiled Latinos in regular traffic and immigration patrols.

Earlier this year, Snow launched a contempt case against Arpaio for the sheriff's acknowledged violations of court orders in the profiling case, including letting officers conduct immigration patrols for 18 months after being ordered to stop them.

The contempt case sprawled further in late April when Snow asked Arpaio about the two secret investigations during a contempt hearing.

Arpaio's lawyers say the sheriff had a duty to examine whether information provided by two investigative sources about the judge was true.

A lawyer for the sheriff had hired a private investigator to examine a claim that Snow's wife said the judge didn't want to see Arpaio re-elected. It's not clear whether she ever made such a comment.

Attorneys for Arpaio say the investigation was dropped out of respect for Snow.

Arpaio said the other investigation involving the judge centered on a claim from a paid informant that there were wiretaps on the emails and phones of local judges and lawyers defending the sheriff in the separate civil rights lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department.

Weeks later, the judge said records from that investigation intended to show that Snow and the Justice Department were conspiring against him. Arpaio had testified that his office eventually lost confidence in the informant's credibility.

The sheriff's office disputes that the judge was targeted in the secret investigations.

The lawyers who oppose Arpaio's request said documents handed over by the sheriff's office indicate the conspiracy investigation continued until the eve of the contempt hearings.

This isn't the first time Arpaio has sought to remove a judge from the profiling case.

Arpaio's lawyers succeeded in 2009 in getting a new judge after questioning the impartiality of then-U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia, whose twin sister was the leader of the National Council of La Raza, a prominent advocacy group for Latinos.

Snow, an appointee of President George W. Bush, then took over the case.

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