United States v. Maricopa County, et al. and Melendres v. Arpaio

Overview: 

In March 2009, we opened an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) pursuant to Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). MCSO refused to cooperate with our investigation, and we filed suit under Title VI to obtain the information we needed, which MCSO agreed to provide in June 2011, settling this suit. After completing our investigation, on December 15, 2011, we announced our findings. We found that MCSO engaged in a pattern of misconduct that violated the Constitution and federal law. Specifically, we found that MCSO engaged in a policy of stopping, detaining, and investigating persons of Hispanic ancestry based on their race, in traffic and during worksite raids; failed to provide language access assistance to Hispanic jail inmates with Limited English Proficiency (LEP); and unlawfully retaliated against individuals who complained about or criticized MCSO’s practices.

We attempted to work with MCSO to reach an agreement to remedy the unlawful conduct we found, but we could not resolve our claims without litigation. We filed suit against Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County on the above grounds in May 2012. The Court granted summary judgment in our favor on the discriminatory policing claim in June 2015. We reached a partial settlement with Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County in July 2015, resolving the remaining claims concerning conduct in worksite raids, retaliation, and language access requirements for Hispanic LEP inmates in MCSO jails.

In May 2013, in a parallel law suit, Melendres v. Arpaio, the federal district court of Arizona found that MCSO had engaged in unlawful discrimination against Hispanic persons in its traffic enforcement operations. In October 2013, the court issued an injunction, ordering MCSO to undergo reforms to prevent further discriminatory law enforcement practices, and appointed an independent monitor to oversee implementation of the injunction. In August 2015, we requested, and were granted intervention in Melendres, to join the case as a Plaintiff-Intervenor. We are now working with Plaintiffs and the independent monitor to ensure that MCSO meaningfully implements the court-ordered reforms required by the injunctive order.

Case Open Date: 
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Case Name: 
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Tags: 
Conduct of law enforcement agencies
Industry Code: 
None
Component: 
Civil Rights - Special Litigation Section
Updated December 8, 2015