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Class Action Survives|Against Sheriff Arpaio

PHOENIX (CN) - A federal judge ruled that a class action claiming Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio participated in racial profiling can continue. Five Latinos and Somos America, a community-based coalition, sued Arpaio, the Sheriff's Office and Maricopa County in July 2008, claiming that sheriff's deputies had illegally stopped and mistreated them because of their race.

Maricopa County sought dismissal, claiming Somos America (We Are America) lacks standing, that the county can't be held responsible for the violation of constitutional rights and that the Sheriff's Office is a "non-jural entity" and cannot be sued.

But Judge Mary Murguia found that lawsuit is replete with "examples of intentional discrimination" including Arpaio's public announcement that "physical appearance alone is sufficient to question an individual about their immigration status, that MCSO's crime suppression sweeps have been allegedly targeted at areas having a high concentration of Hispanics, and that the MCSO has used volunteers to assist in these crime sweeps who have known animosity towards Hispanics and immigrants." Judge Murguia ruled that law enforcement officials should not use a Latino's appearance as reason to perform a traffic stop, and that a "reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation does not justify questioning of drivers or passengers about immigration status."

Arpaio, who is not adverse to publicity, calls himself America's toughest sheriff.

The five individual plaintiffs and Somos America are represented by the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and David Bodney with Steptoe & Johnson.

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