Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Joe Arpaio, pardoned last week after being convicted of contempt of court, was one of President Trump's most loyal surrogates while he campaigned for the presidency in 2016.

Joe Arpaio, pardoned last week after being convicted of contempt of court, was one of President Trump's most loyal surrogates while he campaigned for the presidency in 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

'A Gross Injustice': House Democrats and Legal Group Challenge Arpaio Pardon

Trump's pardon of sheriff, found guilty of racially profiling Latinos, "is disrespectful to the rule of law"

Julia Conley

House Democrats and a nonpartisan legal advocacy group are both pushing the federal government to challenge President Donald Trump's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted last month of flouting a judge's order to end his practice of racially profiling Latinos.

Trump announced last week that he would pardon Arpaio, who was one of the president's biggest supporters on the campaign trail and who faced a maximum penalty of six months in jail for contempt of court.

Over Arpaio's 24-year career as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, he frequently detained Latinos under the suspicion that they were undocumented immigrants, with no evidence that they had committed any crimes, and established a detention center called Tent City, which he compared favorably to a Nazi concentration camp.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and 16 other House Democrats sent a letter Wednesday to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asking him to a call a hearing on the pardon, which they called "a gross injustice."

"The pardon sends an unequivocal message that institutionalized racial profiling as practiced by Sheriff Arpaio is acceptable," the representatives wrote. "The pardon is disrespectful to the rule of law in general and to the federal courts in particular; and the president issued the pardon in complete absence of any advisory role by the Department of Justice."

While presidents do have the power to issue pardons, the letter notes that Trump ignored "DOJ policy calling for a waiting period of five years or more before considering a pardon application," and did not issue the pardon through the Pardon Attorney at the Justice Department, as has been done by presidents for 125 years.

Meanwhile, the group United to Protect Democracy, formed by a group of former White House lawyers to "monitor, investigate, report on, organize, and litigate against" illegal actions taken by the Executive Branch, sent a letter to the Justice Department's Criminal Division on Tuesday, asking the office to oppose Arpaio's motion to dismiss his conviction following his pardon, noting:

President Trump has not issued a pardon after an acknowledgement by Arpaio (or Trump) of his guilt in the matter, as is the case with most pardons. Rather, President Trump has made clear that he believes Arpaio should never have followed the court’s order to begin with, and was right to ignore it. That factual context raises grave questions about this pardon’s potential to lead to other due process violations.

Arpaio's ability to have his conviction dismissed following the pardon has also been met with scrutiny by the Arizona judge who was set to sentence him in October. The Arizona Republic reported on Tuesday that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton cancelled his sentencing hearing, but "stopped short of throwing out the conviction based solely on Arpaio's request. Instead she ordered Arpaio and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to file briefs on why she should or shouldn't grant Arpaio's request."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'We Are Trying to Save It,' Progressives Say as Right-Wing Dems Sabotage Biden's Agenda

"The Biden agenda—our Democratic agenda—is at stake. It's progressives who are fighting to pass it in its entirety."

Jake Johnson ·


Bush and Warren Lead New Bill to Protect Renters Nationwide From Eviction

"This pandemic isn't over, and we have to do everything we can to protect renters from the harm and trauma of needless eviction, which upends the lives of those struggling to get back on their feet."

Jessica Corbett ·


Campaign Slams Vaccine Makers for Fueling 'Unprecedented' Human Rights Crisis

"Covid-19 vaccines must be readily available and accessible for all. It is up to governments and pharma companies to make this a reality."

Brett Wilkins ·


Sunrise Movement Targets Kyrsten Sinema for Obstructing Build Back Better Act

"Who do you work for? Do you work for the young, BIPOC, and working people who put their lives on hold to elect you? Or do you work for ExxonMobil and fossil fuel corporations?"

Brett Wilkins ·


UN Chief Tells World Leaders To Their Faces That Vaccine Apartheid Is 'An Obscenity'

Persistent inequality represents "a moral indictment of the state of our world," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo