PHOENIX (CN) – A federal judge on Wednesday accepted President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and dismissed the criminal contempt action against him.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found the pardon to be valid, and told a packed courtroom Wednesday morning that she was bound to accept it by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1925 decision in Ex parte Grossman.
In Grossman, the Supreme Court upheld President Calvin Coolidge's pardon of Philip Grossman, a bootlegger who was convicted of criminal contempt for violating the National Prohibition Act.
Bolton convicted Arpaio of criminal contempt in July for willfully violating another federal judge’s order to stop performing immigration patrols. That order came in a racial profiling class action filed against Arpaio, who served as Maricopa County sheriff for nearly 25 years, claiming his officers targeted Latino residents during patrols.
Trump pardoned the former lawman in August, calling Arpaio a “worthy candidate” for his first presidential pardon.
During Wednesday’s hearing, attorneys for Arpaio asked Bolton to vacate her verdict and all other orders she issued in the criminal case. Arpaio was not present for the hearing.
“Because this case is moot, because there will never be an appeal, the mootness results in a vacatur,” said Arpaio’s attorney Jack Wilenchik.
Bolton said Wilenchik’s request would call for her to vacate potentially dozens of orders.
“Vacatur typically is as to the judgment of conviction, which has not happened in this case,” Bolton said.
Wilenchik argued the matter was one of “basic fairness.” He said that by allowing the orders to remain would leave Arpaio open to future burden.
Bolton asked if that was “highly speculative.” She added she was having a hard time imagining a situation where the filings would be used to bind Arpaio.
Attorneys for the Justice Department agreed with Wilenchik, arguing Bolton should vacate her verdict with other orders.
“(It’s) less about equity and more about administration and good housekeeping,” said John Keller, for the Justice Department. “It doesn’t change the evidence that was presented in this case.”
Bolton said she would take the arguments under advisement. She did not indicate when she would rule.
The hearing also touched on a number of motions to file amicus briefs, lodged by a group of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and advocacy groups the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Free Speech for People, the Coalition to Preserve, Protect, and Defend, and the Protect Democracy Project.
Bolton granted the motions but rejected their varying arguments, including those that claimed Trump’s pardon harmed private litigants in the underlying racial profiling class action.
“This pardon does not interfere with the rights of those private litigants,” Bolton said. “This pardon in this criminal contempt case has the effect of allowing defendant Arpaio to escape punishment for his willful violation.”
Mark Goldman, another attorney for Arpaio, questioned what “legal principal or rule of criminal procedure” Bolton used to grant motions from the groups filing amicus briefs.
“I exercised my sound discretion,” Bolton replied.
Goldman asked her to sanction the groups for filing their amicus briefs, which he said was unprecedented and required time spent by the defense to review them. She said she would consider a brief on the issue.
Arpaio, a Republican, lost re-election in November after years of legal battles cost Maricopa County taxpayers around $70 million in court costs.Follow @jamierossCNS
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