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Two Groups File Briefs against Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Presidential Pardon
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Joe Arpaio

Summary: At least two motions have been filed by joint groups fighting to prove the presidential pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio’s pardon was unconstitutional.

Ever since President Donald Trump granted a pardon to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio last month, he has been under fire. Two advocacy groups have made attempts to challenge the president’s pardon. They claim the president does not have the constitutional right to grant the pardon.


Public interest law firm Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center had sought to file an amicus brief in the Arizona district court where Arpaio was seeking a dismissal of his conviction. Their brief was turned down due to procedural grounds.

Another group, the Protect Democracy Project, also filed an amicus brief citing an unconstitutional pardon.

The former sheriff is accused of repeatedly using racist law enforcement tactics and mistreating inmates. A civil rights investigation by the Justice Department concluded that his department was racially profiling Latinos. He ended up losing his bid for re-election in 2016. A few months ago, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court because he went against a federal court order to stop detaining immigrants without an appropriate reason. Last month, President Trump pardoned him, noting his “selfless public service.”

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When the MacArthur Justice Center went to file in the case but was warned by Judge Susan Bolton that their motion would be denied in the next three days if the motion was not edited to adhere to court procedure. The MacArthur Justice Center contended that the pardon of Arpaio was unconstitutional because “it has the purpose and effect of eviscerating the judicial power to enforce constitutional rights.” They argued that presidential pardon power cannot be used to go against the judiciary’s ability to enforce the Bill of Rights or the Fourteenth Amendment.

They took issue with the words of the pardon, stating, “…the text of the pardon is so broad that it purports to allow Arpaio to run for Sheriff again…and escape criminal liability for future contempt.” They also stated that the pardon “eviscerates this Court’s enforcement power…by endorsing Arpaio’s refusal to comply with federal court orders.”

The Protect Democracy group had similar arguments. They believe the pardon violates the separation of powers since “it unconstitutionally interferes with the inherent powers of the Judicial Branch.” They continued by stating, “We are aware of no case in this Court, the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court that has upheld a pardon matching the extraordinary circumstances here, where the contempt is used to enforce court orders protecting the rights of private litigants.”

Federal prosecutors didn’t fight back against the pardon. They were the ones to secure the criminal contempt conviction against Arpaio but agreed that the pardon nullified the verdict. Department of Justice prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to toss out the case, explaining, “A pardon issued before entry of final judgment moots a criminal case because the defendant will face no consequences that result from the guilty verdict. Accordingly, the government agrees that that Court should vacate all orders and dismiss the case as moot.”

Bolton canceled the October sentencing hearing but will not toss the case until both sides file briefs arguing their case.

Do you think the President had the right to pardon Arpaio? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, read these articles:






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