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Racial-Profiling Appeals Too Late, 9th Circ. Finds

PHOENIX (CN) - Maricopa County did not make a timely appeal of four court orders in a racial profiling class action against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday.

Five Latinos and the community group Somos America filed a class action in 2007 against Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office claiming officers in the agency racially profiled Latinos and unlawfully detained them during crime-suppression sweeps. In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow found for the plaintiffs, barring Arpaio and his deputies from continuing their practice of racial profiling.

Maricopa County was substituted for the sheriff's office as a defendant in an April 2015 ruling by the Ninth Circuit since it is, under Arizona law, a non-jural entity. In that same ruling, the court upheld reforms ordered by Snow to "increase training, improve traffic-stop documentation, develop an early identification system for racial profiling problems, enhance supervision and evaluation of MCSO deputies, and improve reporting of misconduct complaints."

In May 2015, Maricopa County appealed four trial court orders entered between December 2011 and April 2014, which had previously been appealed by Arpaio and the sheriff's office.

"This attempted appeal is in obvious tension with the longstanding rule that a party must file a notice of appeal within 30 days 'after entry of the judgment or order appealed from,'" Circuit Judge Clifford Wallace on behalf of a three-judge panel. Maricopa County's appeal came nearly a year after the last order.

Maricopa County argued its appeal was timely because it was filed within 30 days after the appeals court's April 2015 decision.

"The novelty of this argument is best illustrated by the fact that Maricopa County offers no supporting authority for it," Wallace wrote.

The county also argued it would be "unfair" for its appeal to be dismissed because it was not able to timely file until it replaced the sheriff's office.

"The county has conceded that even if we had never substituted it in place of MCSO, it would have nonetheless had to bear the financial costs associated with complying with the district court's injunction," Wallace wrote. "Given that concession, there is no argument that our substitution of it into the case in Melendres II saddled it with obligations that it would not otherwise have had."

Arpaio and four of his top assistants are facing civil contempt charges in the same case, for failing to impose Snow's orders, including the failure to train officers on how to make constitutional traffic stops without racially profiling.

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