Judge Refuses to Toss Joe Arpaio’s Conviction Without Hearing Oral Arguments First

by Gabe Ortiz –

USA Today reports that the federal judge who last month convicted Joe Arpaio, the disgraced former sheriff of Maricopa County, of criminal contempt of court has refused his request to immediately throw out his conviction, ordering “Arpaio and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to file briefs on why she should or shouldn’t grant Arpaio’s request.” U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton did agree to cancel Arpaio’s sentencing hearing following Donald Trump’s reprehensible pardon, but as USA Today states, “there is case law that says a pardon implies an admission of guilt, and that will have to be argued in open court”:

Mark Goldman, one of Arpaio’s attorneys, said, “We look forward to the hearing, and hope that the court will make the appropriate ruling. The verdict should have been set aside by the court already and prior to the pardon for the reason that it was never delivered to Sheriff Arpaio in open court, but instead sent to his attorneys via email, thus violating his constitutional rights to a public trial and to participate in his trial.”

Goldman told The Arizona Republic Arpaio will appeal if the judge does not vacate all decisions in the case.

“We don’t know if the court will,” he said. “And if they don’t, we’ll be appealing, but hopefully this will just put this to rest.”

But as Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin notes, this is “no slam dunk” for Arpaio, who recently had the nerve to complain that he didn’t like media referring to him as a racist (Fact check: he is). “Protect Democracy, an activist group seeking to thwart Trump’s violations of legal norms, and a group of lawyers have sent a letter to Raymond N. Hulser and John Dixon Keller of the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division of the Justice Department,” writes Rubin, “arguing that the pardon goes beyond constitutional limits.”

Rubin continues:

The argument is that the president cannot obviate the court’s powers to enforce its orders when the constitutional rights of others is at stake. “The president can’t use the pardon power to immunize lawless officials from consequences for violating people’s constitutional rights,” says one of the lawyers who authored the letter, Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People. Clearly, there is a larger concern here that goes beyond Arpaio. “After repeatedly belittling and undermining judges verbally and on Twitter, now President Trump is escalating his attack on the courts into concrete actions,” says Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy. “His pardon and celebration of Joe Arpaio for ignoring a judicial order is a threat to our democracy and every citizen’s rights, and should not be allowed to stand.”

“Those challenging the pardon understand there is no precedent for this,” Rubin continued, “but neither is there a precedent for a pardon of this type”:

“While many pardons are controversial politically, we are unaware of any past example of a pardon to a public official for criminal contempt of court for violating a court order to stop a systemic practice of violating individuals’ constitutional rights,” Fein says. He posits the example of criminal contempt in the context of desegregation. “In 1962, after the governor and lieutenant governor of Mississippi disobeyed a court order to allow James Meredith to attend the University of Mississippi, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered the Department of Justice to bring criminal contempt charges, which it then did,” Fein recalls. “Eventually, while the criminal contempt case was pending, the Mississippi officials relented and allowed Meredith (and others) to attend the university. But if the president had pardoned the Mississippi officials from the criminal contempt, it would have sent a clear message to other segregationist officials that court orders could be ignored.”

In Congress, all House Judiciary Committee Democrats have written a letter to Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, calling on him to investigate Arpaio’s pardon:

The letter notes that for “125 years, presidents have worked through the Pardon Attorney to ensure that the power of clemency is fairly applied.  President Trump chose to work around this mechanism and ignore DOJ policy calling for a waiting period of five years or more before considering a pardon application and the expression of regret or remorse by the applicant.” It further details that“before resorting to a full pardon, President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to simply drop the criminal case against Sheriff Arpaio,” pointing out that the House Judiciary Committee  “has long defended the view that presidents should avoid involvement in specific criminal cases in order to avoid even the perception of politicizing the administration of justice.”

The Members continued, “It is also our Committee’s unique and pressing responsibility to conduct oversight of the President’s use of executive power—particularly when that power is expressed as a pardon that only serves to endorse the transgressions committed by the offender.  If we do not examine this use of the pardon power, we fear that the Committee will be seen by our constituents—and by future generations—as also having endorsed the Sheriff’s conduct.”

“Both men are not ashamed to use overt appeals to racism to glorify themselves and both are not ashamed of abusing public office if it enhances their personal brand,” said Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois. “This is a sad chapter even by the standards of the tragic saga of Trump.”


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos