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MacArthur Justice Center Urges Court to Uphold Arpaio's Conviction

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) has filed an amicus brief with the U.S District Court of Arizona in opposition to Arpaio’s motion to vacate his conviction. Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court for ignoring orders to stop immigrant round ups that violated the Constitution.
 
The brief argues that, while the original constitutional framework may have granted broad pardon power to the President, the addition of the Bill of Rights and the Reconstruction amendments fundamentally altered American government by specifying certain individual rights and the judiciary’s power to enforce these rights. In short, the President cannot use his pardon power to attempt to invalidate the judicial enforcement of constitutional rights.
 
“The message sent by the pardon is clear: The judiciary should leave law enforcement alone, and allow government officials to achieve ‘law and order’ by violating constitutional rights,” said David Shapiro, MJC Appellate Director. “The President cannot issue pardons that eviscerate the role of the federal judiciary in our constitutional structure.”
 
The pardon must be read in the context of other statements by the President that undermine judicial authority. The continual emphasis, both prior to and since issuing the pardon, that Arpaio was "doing his job" when he ignored the Court sends a message that state and local law enforcement officials need not fear federal courts trying to enforce constitutional rights—when government officials ignore the courts, they are "doing their job," and the pardon power will protect them from criminal liability.
 
The brief also raises concerns over the scope of the pardon. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the President cannot issue a pardon for conduct that has not yet occurred. However, the broad scope of the pardon would allow for the very real scenario of Arpaio running for re-election as Sheriff and returning to his practice of violating similar court orders. Arpaio has refused to rule out the possibility of seeking political office in the future.  Therefore, if Arpaio were elected again, the pardon granted would offer prospective immunity, no matter how frequent or blatant Arpaio’s conduct, and devastate the Court’s ability to enforce the constitutional protections mandated in the Melendres litigation.
 
Even if the Court finds the pardon valid, the conviction should still stand. Arpaio’s motion to vacate his conviction rests on the argument that the timing of the pardon hinders his ability to appeal. However, not only did Arpaio voluntarily accept the pardon when asked, he demanded it occur before sentencing, writing an explicit request to the White House on August 25th through his lawyer.
 
“The pardon awards Arpaio for waging war on minority communities and for breaking the law,” said Shapiro. “The nation deserves for the conviction to stand.”
Full brief can be found here

Keywords: Arpaio, David M. Shapiro, Donald Trump

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