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ACLU Challenges Law Aimed at Pinata of Sheriff Joe

TUCSON (CN) - The ACLU claims that Pima County is treading on the First Amendment with a proposed policy that county employees must act "in a manner that will not bring discredit or embarrassment to the county." The proposed policy came after a demonstration where county legal defender Isabel Garcia held up the head of a piñata of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to a cheering crowd, after youths had whacked away the effigy's body.

Garcia, an attorney, is a longtime advocate for immigrants' rights.

Sherriff Arpaio has garnered national coverage for his harsh treatment of inmates, and for using his state powers to crack down on immigrants in the Phoenix area.

The ALCU wrote to the Pima County Board of Supervisors on Monday that the policy change, which would allow the county to punish or fire employees deemed to have engaged in embarrassing behavior, is unconstitutionally vague and violates rights to free expression.

"When public employees act on their own time on topics unrelated to their employment, their expressions may only be curtailed by governmental justification 'far greater than mere speculation,'" wrote Dan Pochoda of the Arizona ACLU.

The ACLU also demanded that the county send it the names of people and organizations who requested the policy revision.

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