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United States v. County of Maricopa

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 7, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
County of Maricopa, Arizona, Defendant-Appellant, and Paul Penzone,

          Argued and Submitted September 15, 2017 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona Roslyn O. Silver, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:12-cv-00981-ROS

          Richard K. Walker (argued), Walker & Peskind PLLC, Scottsdale, Arizona, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Elizabeth Parr Hecker (argued) and Thomas E. Chandler, Attorneys; Gregory B. Friel, Deputy Assistant Attorney General; Civil Rights Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: Ronald M. Gould, Richard C. Tallman, and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Civil Rights

         The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the United States, which brought this action to halt racially discriminatory policing policies concerning traffic stops instituted by Joseph Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.

         The panel held that Sheriff Arpaio acted as a final policymaker for the County. The panel further held that because the traffic-stop policies at issue fell with the scope of a sheriff's law-enforcement duties, Arpaio acted as a final policymaker for Maricopa County when he instituted those policies.

         The panel held that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 34 U.S.C. § 12601 authorized policymaker liability. The panel further held that the proper standard for determining which employees have the power to establish an entity's "official policy" under Title VI and 34 U.S.C. § 12601 is the standard that governs under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The panel concluded that Maricopa County was liable for violations of Title VI and § 12601 stemming from its own official policies. Finally the panel held that when Arpaio adopted the racially discriminatory traffic-stop policies at issue, he acted as a final policymaker for the County, and the district court correctly held the County liable for the violations of Title VI and § 12601 caused by those policies.

         The panel held that the district court properly applied issue preclusion to bar the County from relitigating the lawfulness of Arpaio's traffic-stop policies because the County was bound by prior adverse findings. See Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990 (9th Cir. 2012).

          OPINION

          WATFORD, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         The United States brought this action to halt racially discriminatory policing policies instituted by Joseph Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Under Arpaio's leadership, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) routinely targeted Latino drivers and passengers for pretextual traffic stops aimed at detecting violations of federal immigration law. Based on that and other unlawful conduct, the United States sued Arpaio, MCSO, and the County of Maricopa under two statutes: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (formerly codified at 42 U.S.C. § 14141).[1] The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States on the claims relating to the unlawful traffic stops; the parties settled the remaining claims. Maricopa County is the lone appellant here. Its main contention is that it cannot be held liable for the unlawful traffic-stop policies implemented by Arpaio.

         We begin with a summary of the lengthy legal proceedings involving Arpaio's unlawful policing policies. In an earlier class action lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio, a group of plaintiffs representing a class of Latino drivers and passengers sued Arpaio, MCSO, and the County of Maricopa under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and Title VI. They alleged that execution of Arpaio's racially discriminatory traffic-stop policies violated their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Following a bench trial, the district court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor and granted broad injunctive ...


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