With his legal fees mounting and a trial turning increasingly personal, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is turning to the public for money and the legal system for a new judge.
Arpaio said in a letter to supporters that he doesn’t have the money to continue paying for attorneys out of his own pocket, adding that he feels “targeted” by the immigration rights groups that have sued him to stop what they say are racist policies targeting Latinos.
“In some instances I have to personally pay for attorneys to represent me in these cases,” Arpaio wrote in an email Thursday. “I do not have the personal wealth or the wherewithal to keep up with the costly demands of paying for attorneys to defend me.”
Arpaio made the plea while awaiting a decision by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow on whether the sheriff broke the law in failing to carry out a 2011 court order to refrain from bias against minorities.
On Friday, Arpaio asked for Snow to be taken off the case. His reasoning: The judge is personally involved in the case because Arpaio’s former lawyer authorized a secret investigation of Snow’s wife.
“No reasonable person with knowledge of the facts can deny that Judge Snow is now investigating and presiding over issues involving his own family,” Arpaio’s lawyers wrote in the filing.
Arpaio had struck an unusually conciliatory tone with Snow in April, when the 83-year-old sheriff answered the first of two inquiries into his actions after being ordered to stop racial profiling by his department.
Snow had ruled in 2013 that the sheriff’s office had systematically racially profiled Latinos in its regular traffic and immigration patrols.
“I want to apologize to the judge,” Arpaio said last month. “I should have known more about these court orders that slipped through the cracks.”
The tactic of asking to remove a judge has worked for Arpaio before. In 2009, he successfully argued to have U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia taken off the profiling case because her twin sister was a prominent leader of a national Latino advocacy organization.
Legally, Arpaio is facing his greatest challenges from another federal judge, David G. Campbell, who in January ordered an immediate halt to the state’s enforcement of identity theft laws that penalize immigrants in the country illegally for seeking employment.
Arpaio was using that law to justify workplace raids.
He is scheduled to appear before Snow again in June, a date that could be affected by his filing.