Showdown in Marikafka County

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Today is the deadline by which Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe gave Dep. Adam Stoddard to apologize for swiping documents from a defense attorney’s file in open court last month. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who, oddly, is speaking at Arizona State University’s journalism school tonight) has vowed that Stoddard will not apologize.

Arizona freelance journalist Nick Martin broke this story, and lays out the delicously intriguing stakes:

Earlier this month, Arpaio vowed that his young officer would not abide by the ruling, saying, “Superior Court judges do not order my officers to hold press conferences.”

That same day, Liddy announced the sheriff’s office planned to ask the Arizona Court of Appeals to intervene in the case. But as of Sunday night, Liddy had not yet filed the appeal.

On Wednesday, the sheriff’s office asked Donahoe to delay the deadline for the apology so the appeal could still be filed. But so far, no delay has been granted…

Even with the Phoenix area’s unusual politics and bizarre history, the events leading up to today create a scenario unlike any the region has seen in quite some time – if ever.

For one, it sets up the possibility that Stoddard could ignore Donahoe’s order outright and force the judge to send him to jail for contempt of court. The jailing of an active member of law enforcement in Maricopa County is unprecedented in recent memory.

It also raises the question of whether Arpaio, who runs the county jails and has balked at the judge’s order, would agree to lock up one of his own men. If he refuses, Donahoe could take the extraordinary step of asking another agency to step in or else go another route entirely. It’s anybody’s guess.

I can’t think of another case where a judge has ordered someone jailed for contempt and the police department has refused to carry out the order. I’m not sure what would happen next. A duel? Arm wrestling?

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47 Responses to “Showdown in Marikafka County”

  1. #1 |  Chris K. | 

    I guess the best we could hope for would be a duel between sheriff scumbag and the judge. May the judge have fantastic aim.

  2. #2 |  John Wilburn | 

    Radley – this is an example of what I meant by “the police are used to having it all their way…”

    Answerable only to themselves…

  3. #3 |  Guido | 

    I wonder what the word on the street is down in Maricopa County. This event alone could undermine support for the system of justice and law enforcement. I for one would feel a right to a fair trial impossible under these circumstances.
    “delicously intriguing stakes” More like nauseously intriguing.

  4. #4 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Guido – Same question, but more of which “side” are average Joes siding with?

  5. #5 |  KBCraig | 

    On the good news front, the Arkansas officer who tasered a 10 year old girl has been fired.

  6. #6 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    One possibillity, if Arpaio refused to jail his deputy, is that the judge would then find Arpaio in contempt and order him to jail Stoddard or face jail himself. Further intransigence might (I don’t know) be enough to let a higher level of state government remove Arpaio from office.

  7. #7 |  cliff | 

    Heard a radio report that this Arpaio guy might be the frontrunner for the Republican governor nomination?!? Just Wow.

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Being the pessimist that I am, I have trouble believing this is going to develop into a real showdown. I think they will get together behind closed doors and defuse the situation. People in government mostly tend to understand that they are all on the same side and the enemy is “out there”.

  9. #9 |  bob42 | 

    I’m surprised that Megalo-Joe hasn’t already found an excuse to put the Judge in a tent city, clad him in pink boxers, and feed him green bologna.

    Is the toughest sheriff in the country loosing his tough?

    I’m disappointed in you Joe. The least you could do is send out a swat team to burn down his house and kill his dog.

  10. #10 |  Michael Chaney | 

    The mayor of a small Arkansas town says the police officer who used a Taser on an unruly 10-year-old girl has been fired for not using the camera attached to the stun gun.

    Still making this an administrative rather than a legal issue. In other words, there’s no problem with tasing a 10 year old girl; he just didn’t follow proper procedure while doing so. Sick, but fully expected given that their first impulse was to circle the wagons.

  11. #11 |  MikeZ | 

    Regarding the off topic tazer story, Even still this sounds like good news. Actually better news in my mind than the common sense decision to fire someone for tazing a 10 yr old. Here someone got fired for not retaining all the evidence needed to see what actually happened. There are hopefully FAR more cases of that happening than tazing 10 yr olds. So setting that precident would be even more important.

  12. #12 |  TDR | 

    What would happen in the event of this showdown? If the deputy gets away for free, hopefully, revolution.

  13. #13 |  Thane Eichenauer | 

    Dave Krueger,
    Don’t bet on Joe Arpaio working it out. How does that get him more power or more media coverage? It wouldn’t therefore it won’t happen.

    I don’t think there is anybody in Arizona state government with the will and gumption needed to lay a finger on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

  14. #14 |  Frank | 

    #5 And will be hired in a matter of weeks by another department in Arkansas, if he hasn’t already had job offers.

  15. #15 |  Frank | 

    #13 Agreed on both counts. Eventually someone is going to be annoyed enough at The Ego Too Big For Arizona to award him an extra navel.

  16. #16 |  Dave | 

    What an interesting situation!
    Arpaio is an ass, and his deputy should be brought up on charges, BUT Arpaio is absolutely correct about the judge lacking the authority to order another branch of the government to do anything.
    When Andrew Jackson defied the Supreme Court he took the same basic stance on separation of powers.
    I would like to see it play out in a way that the powers of each branch are distinctly defined, but I doubt that will happen.

  17. #17 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    I am not a member of the Arizona bar, so take the following with a grain of salt. “Police” departments are not typically tasked with the job of jailing persons charged and convicted of criminal contempt. In the US in general, both federal and state jurisdictions divide law enforcement between a largely investigative and public watch-keeping (handled by police) and an agency whose principal role is as a judiciary adjunct, confining persons awaiting trial and sentencing, serving judicial warrants (usually civil and criminal), and performing official functions ordered by the courts (e.g., auctioning off foreclosed property). In most jurisdictions, this is the sheriff’s role. The problem is that it gets confusing because sheriffs, as law enforcement officers, typically have the state powers and training to perform police-like functions. A similar situation obtains in the federal system with the Marshals.

    What’s disturbing about Arpaio’s statement, from a rule-of-law standpoint, is that a core function of a sheriff is to enforce court orders. (The order doesn’t raise any separation of powers concerns because obeying the court is a basic part of the definition of a sheriff, ever since the office was established centuries ago in England. “Sheriff” comes from “shire reeve,” the reeve being the crown’s enforcer, and therefore the courts’.) If the sheriff is going to disobey a court order, then he’s acting entirely outside the checks and balances in the system. Frankly, I think Arpaio ought to be jailed himself for contempt if he publicly instigates his officer to disobey the order.

  18. #18 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Phoenix disappears up Arpaio’s asshole?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist a vaguely South Park-ian reference.

  19. #19 |  Lamarck's Giraffe | 

    As a resident of Maricopa county I an report that the media hasn’t even mentioned this story today. Too busy getting in depth on the “cat save man from fire” story I guess. The poll saying Bloaviating Joe leads in potential gubernatorial candidates is horrifyingly true. Not that I’ve heard of many good options. Maybe a libertarian will run a good campaign. Seriously though… we’re even more screwed than usual here. The retirees love Joe and his get tough and lock up the brown-skinned people ways. Can’t you people keep your elderly in your own states?

    One good news story here, the Goldwater Institute has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a salon here that uses fish pedicures. I think Reason ran a story on a similar (same?) shutdown.

  20. #20 |  JS | 

    I guess the bottom line is, whoever has the guns has the power. Like Joseph Stalin said when told that the pope opposed him “And how many divisions does the pope have?”

    Sheriff Joe has the guns and the guys in the black robes don’t.

  21. #21 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I hope you guys are right. I’d love to see someone take Arpaio down a notch or two.

  22. #22 |  AJs | 

    On a bit of a different take – does a judge really have the authority to order someone to hold a press conference and make an apology? If you apologize, but are not sincere – is that an apology? Who is to judge if you are sincere or not?

    What dumb order by the spineless judge.

  23. #23 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    Never been to Maricopa County, but it sounds like the kind of place that should have an impenetrable wall built around it to keep the craziness and corruption in.

  24. #24 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Send the pig to federal prison where he’ll be far out of reach from Joe Arpaio’s comforting arms. Problem solved.

  25. #25 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Hey, what happened to my comment?

  26. #26 |  claude | 

    “One possibillity, if Arpaio refused to jail his deputy, is that the judge would then find Arpaio in contempt and order him to jail Stoddard or face jail himself. Further intransigence might (I don’t know) be enough to let a higher level of state government remove Arpaio from office.”

    Well i just got a visual thought of Arpaio in pink underwear. Gawd dammit.

  27. #27 |  Tokin42 | 

    We’ll find out. News conference in 30 mins, 8:30 AZ time

  28. #28 |  Michael Chaney | 

    The judge doesn’t have to order this guy to do anything. All he’s saying is “you’re in contempt, and you’ll be punished as such on this datee *unless* you debase yourself by holding a press conference and apologizing first.” The judge doesn’t have to “demand” anything, he just puts the crappy choice out there for the deputy.

  29. #29 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Re: #17

    You are correct about the role of the sheriff. In the state of Indiana, there is also a state sheriff who performs duties for the legislature there.

    Part of the problem (which isn’t a problem in most places) is that there are vast swaths of land for which there is no other law enforcement. I grew up in a small town of 8000, and we had our own police force. Our city was about 2 square miles total. The rest of the couple hundred square miles in the county had no police force outside of the sheriff and his deputies.

    Contrast that with an area like Nashville where we have a city/county government and a police force with jurisdiction throughout the county (except in a few autonomous cities which have their own PDs). Here, the sheriff’s office as a law-enforcement agency is redundant, and we rarely see them driving around. But they still perform the same duties for the courts and such.

    I don’t know about Phoenix, but it looks like they would be redundant there as a law enforcement agency. Even so, we know that Joe likes to do a lot of law enforcement around the town due to some of his famous escapades.

  30. #30 |  Michael Chaney |

    For those playing the home game, Stoddard isn’t going to apologize. We’ll see what happens next. His full statement:

    I am Maricopa County Detention Officer Adam Stoddard. I work in the Court Security Division of the Sheriff’s Office and have been with the Sheriff’s Office for five years.

    Recently, Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe ordered me to hold a press conference to publicly apologize for doing the job I have been trained to do.

    Part of my job in providing security to the court is to inspect documents brought into the courtroom. On October 19th, I saw a document that I had not yet screened, and that raised security concerns. I retrieved that document in plain sight and had court personnel copy it to preserve it as evidence in case it was a security breach.

    It was a split second decision and I do not regret my actions.

    Judge Donahoe has ordered me to feel something I do not and say something I cannot. I cannot apologize for putting court safety first.

    The judge therefore puts me in a position where I must lie or go to jail. And I will not lie.

    What a jerk.

  31. #31 |  SusanK | 

    Wow – an 8:30 p.m. press conference. Color me impressed and doubtful the officer will apologize. Since it had to be by the end of the day, if he were going to apologize, I’d expect it to be done at 11:59 p.m. when “everyone” is in bed.

  32. #32 |  SusanK | 

    OK, I’m behind the times. I get so irritated when people say they won’t apologize because they don’t want to “lie”. We all know you’re not sorry. You’re an ass. We get that. Suck it up and say you’re sorry anyway. I didn’t enjoy saying sorry on the playground as a kid, but I did it. And it was’t true, either.

  33. #33 |  Phelps | 

    I can’t think of another case where a judge has ordered someone jailed for contempt and the police department has refused to carry out the order. I’m not sure what would happen next. A duel? Arm wrestling?

    Unless I am missing something, he’s a state judge in Maricopa county, not a Maricopa county judge. As for the legal relationship between him and Sheriff Joe, the technical term is that Sheriff Joe is “his bitch”. The next step would be to find Sheriff Joe in contempt, and call in the state police to arrest him. I would expect the state police to file obstruction of justice charges on anyone else in the Sheriff’s office stupid enough to resist them (although I’m saying that from Texas, where the Texas Rangers would likely be the ones executing the order. AZ may not have any real law men anymore.)

  34. #34 |  Duncan | 

    Can’t the Sheriff assign prisoners to any housing unit he pleases, and doesn’t the Sheriff decide what qualifies as a housing unit?

    “I’m sorry deputy, I have to lock you up for contempt. I’ve designated your home as cellblock A-14 and you are required to stay on the premises for the duration of your sentence.”

    Perhaps he could go so far as to making the entire state a jail annex?

  35. #35 |  Matt Brown | 

    I went to the press conference, and I was stunned by how excited and confident Stoddard seemed reading his blatantly defiant statement. The only way I see this getting resolved is by the court of appeals granting a stay and Sheriff Joe winning in the end. Are City of Phoenix officers going to arrest Stoddard and jail him? What about DPS? The Feds? I doubt it. Something has to give, and I doubt it’s Stoddard and Sheriff Joe.

  36. #36 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #22 AJs

    On a bit of a different take – does a judge really have the authority to order someone to hold a press conference and make an apology?

    This is a good point. Personally, I believe the justice system should be limited in the type of penalties they can assign, but most people seem to like the “creativity” judges sometimes exhibit. The justice system is not a re-education camp. To the extent that it encourages rehabilitation, no one is served by forcing convicts to mindlessly spew forth government mandated dogma.

    Not only should a judge not be able to force someone to apologize, they shouldn’t have the power to require celebrities convicted of drug crimes to make public service announcements. Forcing someone to profess a particular state approved viewpoint is what thought police do. That’s fine for totalitarian police states, but hypocritical to the point of being delusional for a country that proclaims itself to be the “home of the free”.

  37. #37 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    “It’s for security” is quickly becoming the new “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”

    How the hell does a piece of paper represent a security risk outside of soaking it in explosives?

  38. #38 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    When I break the law I have to do much more than say I’m sorry.

  39. #39 |  Ignorantia Juris - Being the Maricopa County Sheriff Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry | 

    […] Now, we have a bona fide constitutional crisis brewing.  A deputy was caught on camera rifling through a defense attorney’s papers and subsequently ordered to deliver a “sincere apology.”  This didn’t sit well with his superior, and that power-that-be’s told the other power-that-be’s no apology would be forthcoming. […]

  40. #40 |  SusanK | 

    Re: “creative” judging. If I remember right, this is a civil contempt, not criminal, which means the contemnor (person being held in contempt) must be allowed to hold the keys to his own cell. The judge couldn’t give him a straight jail sentence for being in contempt, but could tell him to apologize. If he refuses (which he did), the judge can order him held in jail until he does comply with the order.
    The scary thought for me is “what if the court blinks first and backs down?” because I think the answer to that is “there is no rule of law, only rule of Arpaio.”

  41. #41 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Convoluted and conflicted.
    Reminds me of the Judith Miller case.

  42. #42 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #39 SusanK

    Re: “creative” judging. If I remember right, this is a civil contempt, not criminal…

    Well, crap. If snooping through the defense lawyers papers doesn’t constitute a criminal act, then it’s no wonder the deputy isn’t exactly shivering in his shoes.

    And I don’t believe for a minute that the content of those papers should be subject to inspection by law enforcement. It’s one thing to screen people for weapons, it’s another to suggest that the written content of papers is subject to government approval. That’s about as dumb as searching the hard drive of someone’s laptop at the airport as if it falls under the authority to search for weapons.

    If there’s any rule that law enforcement proves repeatedly, its that given an inch, they will take a mile.

  43. #43 |  sparky | 

    Is it, or is it not, a crime to do what that officer did? I’ve seen the guesses and opinions both ways, but I have yet to see a solid legal reference one way or the other.

    Client/Attorney privilege? Legal work product? Since it wasn’t returned on demand, simple theft? What law was broken, if any?

    Does that officer routinely ‘screen’ documents coming into the courtroom, as he claims? All of them? If so, hopefully the procedure for that requires the document owners permission?

  44. #44 |  Derangierte Einsichten - Amerikas schlimmster Sheriff | 

    […] Der Polizist arbeitet jedoch für Joe Arpaio. Und Joe will es gar nicht einfallen, dass ein Richter seinen Jungs sagen soll, was sie zu tun haben. Es gab keine […]

  45. #45 |  mageen | 

    This guy is nothing more than a redux Cossack from the Don River area in Russia. We can definitely have genuine law and order with this.

  46. #46 |  Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Gun In Your Hand? « Around The Sphere | 

    […] see the tireless Radley Balko here for another example of this man’s penchant for obstinate […]

  47. #47 |  norma | 

    As a citizen of Arizona, and a former citizen of Maricopa County, let me apologize to the the country for such an embarrassment of a sheriff! Please know that I never voted for him, and wouldn’t now. Not all of the residents of AZ are crazy!