Obama lawyers challenge Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe

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Two advocacy groups, one of which includes Obama administration lawyers, are challenging President Trump’s pardon of controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, alleging that the president’s pardon was an unconstitutional overreach of executive authority.

Obama’s Justice Department convicted the former sheriff of Maricopa County of willfully violating a 2011 injunction barring his officers from stopping and detaining Latino motorists solely on suspicion that they were in the country illegally. In July, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court because he had continued to detain immigrants without sufficient reason after a federal court order told him to stop.

Trump pardoned Arpaio in August, pointing to his “selfless public service.”

Arpaio then asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in Arizona to vacate the verdict and all other orders in the case. The Justice Department on Monday said his request was valid. “The presidential pardon removes any punitive consequences that would otherwise flow from [Arpaio‘s] non-final conviction and therefore renders the case moot,” according to a court filing.

A public interest law firm, the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, sought to file an amicus brief in an Arizona district court, where Arpaio is seeking to vacate a conviction after Trump granted him a pardon last month. The brief was initially turned down by a judge on procedural grounds.

A second advocacy group, which includes Obama administration lawyers and is called the Protect Democracy Project, filed a separate brief on Monday, urging Bolton to first decide whether the pardon was constitutional before dismissing the case.

Then, the Coalition to Preserve Protect and Defend, a legal group consisting largely of government attorneys and other legal advocacy organizations, argued that Trump’s pardon will remove the ability of the court to enforce its own orders.

“The result would be an executive branch freed from the judicial scrutiny required to assure compliance with the dictates of the Bill of Rights and other constitutional safeguards,” the group wrote.

Arpaio campaigned for Trump in 2016 and thoroughly investigated claims that Obama was not born in the United States by examining the birth certificate that was offered by the Obama administration as proof. That birth certificate was found to be a falsified document by Arpaio’s investigation; a fact that has yet to be examined by Congress.

“Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders,” Trump said last month. “So, I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona, who really know him best, would agree with me.”

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