The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on August 29, delivered a 72-page decision stating that Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and attorney Dennis Wilenchik must stand trial following the unlawful arrests of two Phoenix newspaper executives.
The ruling came on an appeal filed by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, owners of the Phoenix New Times, who had filed a lawsuit claiming Arpaio had them unlawfully arrested in retaliation for articles criticizing the sheriff according to The National Law Journal.
According to The Republic via azcentral.com, Lacey and Larkin in the lawsuit claimed they were arrested in the middle of the night in October 2007 after publishing information about extensive subpoenas issued by Wilenchik, who is the special prosecutor. The National Law Journal states the subpoenas were for the paper to identify sources of articles about Arpaio – some of which were questioning the sheriff’s real estate transactions.
The newspaper owners originally sued in Maricopa County Superior Court, but the case was removed to the U.S. District Court where a federal judge ruled that Arpaio, Wilenchik and Andrew Thomas – former county attorney – had immunity from the lawsuit due to their positions as prosecutors and law enforcement officers according to The Republic. Lacey and Larkin then appealed to the 9th Circuit.
The ruling on August 29, denied absolute immunity for Arpaio and Wilenchik, but said that Thomas was entitled to it, because he had removed himself from involvement in the situation according to The Republic.
The National Law Journal reports “that the court dismissed conspiracy claims against Thomas, but permitted the plaintiffs to replead them with more specificity. In addition, it dismissed claims of racketeering.”