This Federal Judge Seems Unimpressed With Joe Arpaio’s Lawsuit

Dec 23, 2014
9:53 AM

According to reports from The Associated Press, The Huffington Post, and the National Law Journal, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., heard arguments from the lawyer representing Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in his challenge to President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

By all accounts, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell seemed unimpressed.


Howell was hearing arguments from Arpaio’s lawyer on whether the new immigration policy should be temporarily halted while the case is litigated. The judge also heard from the federal government, which asked the court to dismiss the case altogether.

In court papers filed ahead of the hearing, the federal government argued Arpaio doesn’t have “standing” to sue, that his claims were “speculative and unsubstantiated,” and that Obama’s new policy is “a longstanding form of prosecutorial discretion.”


On the “standing” point —a legal hurdle requiring Arpaio to show he has suffered an injury before he can sue— Judge Howell expressed doubt that the likelihood of a “drain” on resources would satisfy it, since the policy is yet to go into effect and it depends on the actions of third parties, according to the National Law Journal. She also did not seem to be moved by the argument that Arpaio’s life would be in jeopardy in light of his much-criticized views on immigration.

But the judge also appeared to be unwilling to step into a dispute involving the powers of the elected branches, a concern that gave her “some pause” in light of the presidency’s historic discretion to grant deferrals on deportations and Congress’s latitude to curb that discretion.

Larry Klayman, Arpaio’s attorney, responded to this skepticism by noting it didn’t matter what other presidents had done in the past. “This is not right and this is not legal,” he said.

The judge also took a moment to address a recent ruling out of Pennsylvania striking down Obama’s new policy, which she called “a real puzzle,” according to The Huffington Post. The Department of Justice is expected to appeal that decision soon.

The Arpaio lawsuit is a separate legal challenge from that brought by Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and 24 other states, which, among other things, claims Obama overstepped his executive authority in issuing the new immigration directives; that lawsuit is pending in a federal court in Texas.

A ruling from Howell is expected soon.


Cristian Farías is a writer and lawyer. You can follow him @cristianafarias.