Judge awards $4.4 million to lawyers in
Arizona racial profiling case
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[September 12, 2014]
By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge on
Thursday awarded more than $4.4 million to attorneys who won a
long-running racial profiling case against the operations of Arizona
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, although that pared the sum plaintiffs' lawyers had
sought by about a third.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled that four groups of
plaintiffs' lawyers were entitled to the amount to cover their fees
and expenses for the case, in which another judge found that
sheriff's deputies were unfairly singling out Latino drivers for
traffic stops on the basis of ethnicity.
Snow lowered the plaintiffs' latest proposal for attorneys fees and
expenses by $2.3 million in granting a final $4.4 million award.
"We're very gratified that the court saved the taxpayers money and
cut some of the fat," Tim Casey, a sheriff's office attorney, said
of the reduced award.
The case, which was originally filed in 2007, tested whether police
could target undocumented immigrants without also profiling U.S.
citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin.
In May 2013, the trial judge found that racial profiling had
occurred during traffic stops and that drivers were being detained
for too long. Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, has denied any
profiling occurred and has appealed the ruling.
An independent monitor was appointed by court order to oversee the
sheriff’s operations and ensure that his deputies refrain from law
enforcement decisions based on ethnicity or race. Additional
training and technology were also required.
The judge's verdict in the non-jury trial was considered a major
blow against Arpaio, who has billed himself as "America's toughest
sheriff" and cultivated a hard-line stance on illegal immigration.
Of the award approved on Thursday, all but about $1 million will go
to the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP. Others awarded fees were
the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project, the
ACLU of Arizona and the Mexican American Legal Defense and
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Stanley Young, lead attorney for Covington, played down the
reduction in the award.
"It is still a significant award, which is appropriate in view of
what it took to remedy the constitutional violations that were
occurring," Young said.
Plaintiff's lawyer Cecillia Wang of the ACLU said the case could
have been settled early but the sheriff's office "instead chose to
stubbornly stick to their illegal policies."
Thursday's ruling came on the same day that a federal court jury in
Phoenix convicted an Oklahoma man of mailing a package bomb
addressed to Arpaio last April.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Steve Gorman and
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