Culture of Corruption in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

This may see obvious to those of you in the rest of the country, but there are real problems with treating a man uniquely allowed to use force against the citizenry like a rock star.  And that is how certain segments of the local population treat Sheriff Joe Arpaio.   As one abuse of power after another is revealed, his supporters respond  "Isn't he so colorful, just like an old-time western sheriff."

For the rest of us his schtick gets old.  The county has spent millions defending lawsuit after lawsuit against him.  The INS has stripped him of his power to track down illegal immigrants, but he still ventures out on sweeps to arrest folks for driving while Mexican, arresting more people of Mexican decent than I though even existed in certain neighborhoods.  He has arrested reporters who criticized him, and arrested people who applauded a speaker who criticized him.  He even launched a mini-coup attempt against the County which employs him, invading the County offices and taking over a computer system that contained emails he had been unable to subpoena.  In the latter case, the County had to seek a restraining order against its own Sheriff!

Unfortunately, Arpaio's indifference to due process and individual rights obviously has percolated to the entire staff.  Here is the most recent craziness -- during  a trial, a Sheriff's deputy starts going through the defendant's attorney's papers, and takes some of them  (all of which were attorney-client privileged).

The explanation was that the documents had not been screened for contraband and weapons, so the deputy had to take (what looks like a couple of sheets of paper) away to study them to make sure there was no gun  stapled to them or something.  This so lame I am not sure how they can even say it with a straight face, but true to form the Sheriff's office is rallying around its own.  More in the AZ Republic.

Why is it the organizations (ie police departments) whom we entrust with uniquely scary power to use force on us citizens tend to have the least well developed internal checks and accountability processes?

Update: Random example of police not getting prosecuted for abuse of power, from today's news.  Folks like Miller and Radley Balko can fill their blogs with these type cases every day and not get them all.


  1. ElamBend:

    watching the video, I was shocked at the judges timidity toward the deputy. That is HER courtroom.

  2. Max:

    I can think of several reasons, first is the Cop-Cop mentality as a brotherhood, which never wants to openly critizes its brothers, because that's what one does amongst his buddies.
    Another reason is that laws and courts try to protect cops, because they are on THEIR side. Impartiality is in the real world more or less a no-go.
    Then we have the lawmakers trying to protect police officers from bizarre lawsuits. They don't want all their police men getting sued just because they used a weapon or behaved a bit rough.

    And the last issue is perception by their subjects (thus you). The US in contrast to Germany (f.e.) never experienced the negative sides of federal-wide strong-arming police men (may it be SA, Gestapo or some other form of Nazi police). This has led to the forming of a relatively mild police force after WW II and a clear set of rules that police men have to abide to. SWAT teams are impossible for most situations here in Germany. That's why the German police is the mildest and less aggressive police force in respect to their neighbours.

  3. me:

    Outrageous! It would have been the judges job to investigate and reign in the deputy right at the start, once he started going through the defendants papers. It sounds as if the judge didn't see the action, though, maybe concentrating on the lawyers statement? Great call by the lawyer on pressing the issue hard.

  4. Maddog:

    I will call the Commission on Judicial Conduct tommorrow and determine whether a case has been opened in this matter if not I will likely file the following letter with them. The judges actions are inexcusable.

    Commission on Judicial Conduct
    1501 W. Washington Street, Suite 229
    Phoenix, AZ 85007
    (602) 452-3200
    Email us at

    Dear Commission Investigator:

    I am concerned about the conduct of the judge and bailiffs, which occurred on Oct.19, 2009 in the Maricopa County courtroom. I found the problematic material on a youtube video which you may reference here:

    Essentially, a bailiff, Adam Stoddard, took a document from defense attorney, Joanne Cuccia’s files without her knowledge. Stoddard gave the document to another bailiff, Francisco Campillo who then left the courtroom.

    As for the Judge she may have violated the following Cannons of Judicial Conduct and should face a disciplinary investigation and possible disciplinary action:

    RULE 1.1. Compliance with the Law
    A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.

    RULE 1.2. Promoting Confidence in the Judiciary
    A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

    Rule 2.12. Supervisory Duties

    (A) A judge shall require court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to act in a manner consistent with the judge’s obligations under this code.
    (C) A judge shall require staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to comply with the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees adopted by the supreme court.

    There is no doubt that the bailiff took a document that belonged to the defense attorney, handed it to another bailiff who then left the court.

    Bailiff Stoddard has alleged as a defense that an officer can seize evidence or make an arrest if he sees a crime taking place. Yet there is no evidence any crime took place or that the bailiff had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

    This appears to be a violation the both the CJC and the CCJE. The judge has apparently failed to execute her duties to supervise her employees. Disciplinary investigation is warranted under the CJC.

    As for the employees of the court they should be investigated and if appropriate disciplined under the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees :

    CANON 1
    A. Independence. Judicial employees shall maintain high standards
    of conduct so the independence of the judiciary is preserved.
    B. Integrity. Judicial employees shall maintain and observe the
    highest standards of integrity, honesty, and truthfulness in their professional
    and personal dealings.

    CANON 2
    A. Compliance with Law. Judicial employees shall respect and
    comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes
    public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

    CANON 3
    A. Professionalism. Judicial employees shall be patient, prompt
    and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others who
    come in contact with the court.

    Bailiff Stoddard needs to be investigated both for his action on October 19, 2009 and for his testimony at the following contempt hearing. Taking the document absent valid reason or probable cause of criminal activity would clearly violate the CCJE.

    At the contempt hearing it is unclear but Stoddard appears to have contradicted himself while testifying. This is a reasonable indicator that Stoddard is not telling the truth or attempting to justify his actions. Such actions are clear violations of the high standards required by the CCJE.

    Disciplinary investigation is warranted under the CCJE.

    Bailiff Francisco Campillo’s actions must be further evaluated to determine his knowledge and state of mind to determine whether his actions were in accord with the CCJE.

    Further, if Mr. Stoddard and/or Mr. Campillo are subject to ethical scrutiny as Sheriffs deputies or detention officers this matter should be transferred to the appropriate authority for investigation.


  5. fph:

    I have a hard time trying to understand the actions, or should I say the inaction of the judge. This is her court room and she should be the first to stand up for the rights of each and every person in the court room. she would have to be blind not to see the deputy take the paper and hand it the other deputy. the judge is a sorry excuse for a judge for allowing this disregard of others rights!!!!!!