Thursday, October 22, 2009

"No legitimate penological purpose": The Sheriff Joe bill keeps adding up.

Maricopa County taxpayers: Your elected Sheriff Joe Arpaio becomes more expensive by the month. How much is enough--how long will you be willing to fund his private crusades?

Back in 2005, the Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that the Maricopa County Jail could not require women inmates to have to obtain a court order before receiving an abortion. Both the Arizona and United States Supreme Courts declined to hear appeals.

Sheriff Joe, never one to take "no" seriously, simply refused to change the policy; last year the ACLU-AZ asked that he and the MCSO be held in contempt of court. Sheriff Joe responded with a change in policy; instead of requiring a court order, he'd require that inmates prepay security and transportation costs.

Back to court, then, and according to Tuesday's ACLU-AZ press release, Arpaio loses again. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig granted ACLU-AZ's motion for summary judgement. I'd provide a link to the arguments, but Oberbillig's order indicates that no court recorder was present and, instead, the matter was recorded electronically. ACLU-AZ's motion is probably indicitave.

Oberbillig cites the 1987 Turner v. Safley precedent, in which the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion (in a case concerning marriage) stipulated that restrictions of inmates' 14th Amendment-protected rights must serve a legitimate penological purpose. The ruling was unanimous and the opinion, nearly so. This is settled law, in other words--that the motion for summary judgement was granted also reflects this--and supposing one wished to overturn abortion's legally protected status, given the Turner precedent, restricting inmate access to the service is an unintelligent way to go about it.

No word yet on whether or not the ACLU-AZ will seek attorney fees; I don't know them not to do so. There's no casual way to estimate how much Maricopa County spent on the case, either, but I can confidently say that once again Sheriff Joe spent taxpayer money on a sure loser.

HT: Alessandra Soler Meetze

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