This is Not about What Would Jesus Do?
It is a response to a recent question a friend asked about my client. My client, J, had just won a $75,000 judgment against Sheriff Joe in Maricopa County. He was one of seven defendants, all jailed and tried and acquitted, who became plaintiffs and sued for damages, for violation of their civil rights. In a mediated settlement in June, they won, collectively, $475,000.
My friend asked (I though with glee and a dash of sarcasm), What Will J Do with his $75,000? She also said she knew why so many protesters were trying to get arrested -- to get more money. (!) Indeed, this last week in Phoenix has seen scores of protesters (on both sides of the Immigration law) and dozens arrested, most for non-violent (!) civil disobedience. The Phoenix police had been notified and virtually all was done in an orderly manner. (Except one instance I know of, done by Sheriff's deputies).
From now on, I'l date my paragraphs.
December, 2008. J, along with 3 others, was arrested, cuffed, jailed, and tried on disorderly conduct charges. Two days earlier, two of the same, plus two others, were arrested, cuffed, jailed, and tried on "trespassing." Another was cited and tried.
By September, 2009, J, and the 6 others were all acquitted. The judge at one point said that the Deputy Sheriff and County should be ashamed and that they trampled on the First Amendment.
In December, 2009, these 7 filed a Federal Civil Rights Complaint against the Sheriff (and Board of Supervisors who failed to rein him in), alleging violation of their First Amendment rights.
In 1789-91, the Founding Fathers continued to allow slavery as they formed their government, but to their credit they added the Bill of Rights. Included in the First Amendment were the rights of Freedom of Speech (and expression), and the Freedom to Petition (not necessarily prevail, only to Petition) the Government for a Redress of Grievances.
In 1865 the Bill of Rights was extended to the States.
In 1964, a comprhehensive Civil Rights Act prohibited the denial of civil rights based on race, nationality, and so forth, and included S. 1983, the right of individuals to sue government officials for violation or denial of their rights.
From 1992 t the present, there has arisen another WWJD: What Will (or Should) Sheriff Joe do?
June, 2010. These seven won a damages award against the Sheriff and the County for $475,000.
In early July, 2010, a single man won a damages award against the office of the Sheriff for $850,000. Why? Because this individual had been charged with the molestation and murder of his son. The deputies, whose legal obligation it was to deliver him safely and securely to his pre-trial jail cell, beat the living crap out of him. He survived and was acquitted at trial. Does it matter whether he was innocent or guilty? NO, because what matters is how those government officials, who are sworn to uphold the Constitution, conduct themselves.
It takes an egregious offense against the Constitution for a judge to find that the government officials who perpetrated wrongdoing against an individual (often a criminal defendant) should be held accountable. The only way that seems to bring the message home to the government officials is to make them pay monetary damages to the plaintiff -- the former defendant -- whose Constitutiona Rights were violated.
So, as far as I'm concerned, there should not even be a hint of a question as to what my J will do. (He'll get counseling for the trauma of being unustly jailed and pay down some student loans). The only legitimate questions should be What Should Joe (and his deputies) Do?
What they did was egregious. What matters now to the taxpayer is that we (I, one of th elawyers, am also a taxpayer, and J, who is also a taxpayer), will have to pay over $1,325,000 for Joe's violations of the Constitution that he and his deputies were sworn to uphold.
Meanwhile, there should not be a question about What Will the Protesters Do and Why? This is a mean-spirited question.
They protest because they have a Constitutional right to do so, and they believe the Immigration law and Joe's conduct is wrong. Unless there is an egregious violation of their civil rights by governmental officials sworn to uphold our Constitution, they won't get any money.
November, 2012. I hope we elect a different Sheriff!