Remember when Joe Arpaio -- the immigrant-hating Arizona sheriff who makes his inmates wear pink underpants -- lived the dream of many a cop by having his leading press critics arrested in the middle of the night, in front of their families? Those journalists had their day in front of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday, but the judges didn’t seem sympathetic to their claims against Sherriff Joe.
The media company in question is New Times, owner of an alt weekly in Phoenix (along with the SF Weekly). After they led a crusade against Arpaio for over a decade, a special prosecutor arrested Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin for printing a grand jury subpoena, an alleged violation of Arizona state law.
Lacey and Larkin say this was just retaliation for all the critical Arpaio coverage. They brought a civil rights claim against Arpaio and the state prosecutors behind their arrest.
But Ninth Circuit panel Judge N. Randy Smith said he didn’t see many specific details alleged in the complaint that Arpaio was directly involved.
“I found no evidence, nothing, no facts,” Smith said. “Tell me where to find facts, and I’d be happy to look at them.”
Judge Jay Bybee also pointed out that the complaint had many details regarding the prosecutors, but not so much with Arpaio. Of course, the undercurrent here is the raised pleading standards recently laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and another case. Now plaintiffs must be much more specific in their allegations in order for their cases to proceed.
If the circuit does dismiss the civil rights claims against Arpaio, Lacey and Larkin still have some state law torts they can pursue.