PHOENIX — An Arizona sheriff could face a civil contempt hearing in federal court for his office's repeated violations of orders issued in a racial-profiling case.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow held a telephonic conference Thursday and told Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's attorneys that the six-term sheriff may face an April 21-24 hearing.
But a top lawyer with the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that Snow stopped short of officially ordering the hearing. The judge has given both sides until Jan. 23 to file additional paperwork.
At a Dec. 4 hearing, Snow sent strong signals that he intended to pursue contempt cases that could expose Arpaio to fines and perhaps jail time.
Lawyers for the sheriff didn't immediately return calls for comment on the possible civil contempt hearing.
Dan Pochoda, senior counsel for the Arizona ACLU, said Friday that Arpaio's office could face sanctions or fines for not following court orders and "fines to deter future bad acts and fines to compensate anyone permanently harmed" in the racial-profiling cases.
Nineteen months ago, Snow found Arpaio's office had systematically singled out Latinos in regular traffic and special immigration patrols.
Snow is requiring Arpaio's officers to video-record traffic stops, collect data on stops and undergo training to ensure they are making constitutional stops. Arpaio vigorously disputes the court's conclusions.
Snow noted Arpaio, when first meeting a court-appointed official who's monitoring the agency on the judge's behalf, said he loves to have confrontations with courts because such disputes increase his popularity.
Snow has grown increasingly frustrated over what he said were inadequate internal investigations into wrongdoing by Arpaio's immigrant smuggling squad, including whether a deputy was shaking down immigrants who were in the country illegally.
The federal judge also is upset over a botched effort by Arpaio's office to recover videos of traffic stops that were withheld in the profiling case. And Snow has said the agency violated a December 2011 pretrial ruling that barred Arpaio's deputies from detaining people based solely on the suspicion that they're in the country illegally.
Arpaio didn't speak at the hearing last month, but told reporters as he left the courtroom that his office has "dedicated a lot of resources in the past, present and future to comply with the court's orders."
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