PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge who ruled an Arizona sheriff's office racially profiled Latinos delayed instituting remedies Friday to allow parties time to agree on options, but he indicated a court-appointed monitor likely would be assigned to assure the agency is complying with constitutional requirements.
In May, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow concluded that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office has systematically singled out Latinos in its immigration patrols and that deputies unreasonably prolonged the detentions of people who were pulled over, marking the first finding by a court that the agency engages in racial profiling.
Snow delayed issuing any orders in the case Friday after parties on both sides indicated they wanted time to work toward an agreement that could be approved by the court. He set an Aug. 30 hearing to revisit the issue.
However, the judge made clear he planned to assign a federal monitor who would have "significant authority" to oversee retraining of deputies, among other changes at the office.
"I do realize it is important for this court to recognize the sovereignty of the people of Arizona. ... I intend to respect that," Snow said Friday. "However, the Constitution of the United States is supreme."
Snow said the monitor would work with the Sheriff's Office balancing the effort to institute reforms while respecting Arpaio's right to enforce the law, "as long as he does so in a way that does not infringe on the constitutional rights of the people of this country."
Snow's May ruling came after a small group of Latinos sued the agency for violating their constitutional rights.
Arpaio's lawyer, Tim Casey, told the judge parties on both sides already are near agreement "on everything except the monitor."
"We oppose a monitor," Casey said bluntly.
The six-term sheriff, who turned 81 on Friday, was expected to resist the court-appointed monitor after rejecting a similar proposal last year when the U.S. Justice Department leveled racial profiling allegations against the agency. Arpaio says allowing a monitor means every policy decision would have to be cleared through an observer and would nullify his authority.
"We believe it's very important that this court be the ultimate arbitrator of what is approved and what is not approved," Casey said Friday, indicating the sheriff's office would rather the judge oversee reforms than a separate federal monitor.
Casey said the department has ended some of its controversial programs and hasn't conducted any immigration sweeps since October 2011.
Arpaio's office "is out of the federal immigration enforcement control business," Casey told the judge.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended Friday's hearing, called it an "important step toward correcting the problem of what has become a national disgrace."
"It's victory for those that have fought so hard in this country for justice," he said.
Snow's ruling doesn't altogether bar Arpaio from enforcing the state's immigration laws, but imposes a long list of restrictions on his immigration patrols. They include prohibitions on using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant and on detaining Latino passengers only on the suspicion that they're in the country illegally.
Stanley Young, the lead attorney who argued the case against Arpaio, said he was hopeful the parties could reach an agreement resulting in a consent decree that would govern how the Sheriff's Office operates going forward within the restraints of the Constitution.
The case that led to Snow's ruling focused on Latinos who were stopped during both routine traffic patrols and special immigration patrols known as "sweeps."
During the sweeps, deputies flood an area of a city — in some cases, heavily Latino areas — over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Immigrants who were in the country illegally accounted for 57 percent of the 1,500 people arrested in the 20 sweeps conducted by Arpaio's office since January 2008.
The ruling against the sheriff's department serves as a precursor to a lawsuit filed last year by the U.S. Justice Department, which also alleges racial profiling in Arpaio's immigration patrols. The federal government's suit, however, claims broader civil rights violations, such as allegations that Arpaio's office retaliates against its critics and punishes Latino jail inmates with limited English skills for speaking Spanish.