U.S. judge dismisses civil rights suit against Arizona sheriff

By David Schwartz
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Laura Segall

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge has approved a deal between the U.S. Justice Department and Arizona's Maricopa County to resolve accusations of civil rights abuses and dismissed the department's lawsuit against controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies.

The move by U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver ended a long legal battle over the 2012 lawsuit in which the federal government accused the Maricopa County sheriff and his office of abuses including racial profiling of Latinos, improper workplace immigration raids and retaliation against public officials.

    In a written ruling issued late on Wednesday, Silver formally approved the settlement between the Justice Department, Arpaio and the county under which the county agreed to federal oversight and will implement new policies, procedures and training to remedy the claims.

    Silver rejected a Justice Department request to keep the case alive in her court until Arpaio's office is declared to be in full compliance for three years in a separate racial profiling case.

Maricopa County did not admit to any wrongdoing under the settlement.

    There was no immediate comment from the sheriff's office or Justice Department on Thursday.

Key parts of the settlement were agreed upon in a unanimous vote in July by Maricopa County supervisors.

Arpaio, known for his hardline stance against illegal immigrants, styles himself as "America's toughest sheriff."

He and other current and former employees face civil contempt hearings due to begin on Sept. 22 for violating court orders relating to the other racial profiling case, which began with a lawsuit filed in 2007 by civil rights activists on behalf of Latino drivers.

He and his chief deputy Gerard Sheridan already have acknowledged committing civil contempt. Possible punishment includes fines, restitution and increased oversight. They also could be charged with criminal contempt.

Arpaio told supporters earlier this year he would run for a seventh term as sheriff in 2016, and he sought donations for a race he said would pit him against "celebrity lefties" trying to oust him.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Will Dunham)