When President Trump signed his name to a pardon for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on August 12, most of us thought that would be the end of the matter. Article II. Section II of our Constitution clearly gives him the power to do so. Unsurprisingly, some hysterics tried to say that it was improper or invalid because the legal proceedings surrounding his case were ongoing, or Trump was a Nazi, or whatever.
The New York Times saw fit to cover the issue in a piece the following week; they offered up some Trump bashing as a little sugar for the hard medicine that they had to deliver to their subscribers on the pardon – “it was almost certainly lawful.” Indeed. No serious person unafflicted by Trump derangement syndrome thought otherwise, but thanks for the clarification.
Arpaio, who took it upon himself and his department to enforce our federal immigration laws, did so in violation of federal law. He also did so by systematically violating the rights of Latinos, or people who looked or sounded like they may be Latinos.
Federal judges then repeatedly ordered the Sheriff to stop violating the fundamental rights of people in the United States to be free from police harassment and molestation due to their skin color. Arpaio’s lust for the illegal seizure and detention of brown persons in his jurisdiction would not be so easily slaked, and he continued his lawless reign.
On July 31, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt for his repeated and ongoing refusal to honor his oath of office and to stop what amounted to the serialized kidnapping of brown people in Maricopa County Arizona. On August 25, before Arpaio was to be sentenced, President Trump issued his pardon.
Arpaio submitted his pardon to Judge Bolton’s court to see the matter dismissed. She dismissed the case against him with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again, on October 4. On Thursday, however, she did something unexpected and quite intriguing.
Bolton’s October 4 dismissal, along with the pardon, took any punishment off the table, but Arpaio asked the court to vacate all the orders in the case – which would have the same legal effect as if they had never been issued in the first place. In her ruling on Thursday, Judge Botlon refused:
“The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial record-keeping.” To vacate all rulings, in this case, would run afoul of this important distinction. The Court found the Defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The President issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared Defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, “revise the historical facts” of this case.”
Sheriff Joe is not letting that ruling stand without a fight:
“Arpaio’s attorneys have already appealed Bolton’s decision to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. One of his lawyers, Jack Wilenchik, has argued that should the conviction be allowed to stand, it could be used against Arpaio in a future civil or criminal case.”
While the existence of the conviction is unlikely to be used against him criminally, the civil side is rife with claims against Arpaio. Those claims will certainly be helped if the records of his misdeeds and the official findings of the federal courts regarding them may be introduced. That’s what this battle is really about – if those orders stand, there’s a good chance Sheriff Joe might finally have to pay up for his wanton abandon of the rule of law in favor of his whims.