The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California has ordered the appointment of a private attorney to oppose former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attempts to wipe his criminal contempt of court conviction from his record after President Donald Trump pardoned him in August.
In October, Arpaio — who is also running for Senate in Arizona to fill Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) seat — appealed a ruling from a local court that blocked him from clearing his record of the conviction. The Arizona district court at the time requested the Department of Justice’s support in upholding its ruling, but the DOJ refused to defend the decision from Judge Susan Bolton.
In a statement to the U.S. appeals court, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said in December that the DOJ doesn’t intend to defend the court’s order.
“The government intends to argue, as it did in the district court, that the motion to vacate should have been granted,” Cronan wrote in December.
That move propelled a group of non-profits to file a request with California’s 9th Circuit Court to appoint a private attorney to defend the Arizona court’s decision, since the Department of Justice “abandoned its prosecution,” a spokesperson for one of the non-profits, Protect Democracy told TPM Tuesday. The other groups included in the request: Free Speech for People, the Coalition to Preserve, Protect and Defend, and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.
The request was approved under the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 42, the spokesperson said.
The group is also hoping to give the court the opportunity to assess whether Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was constitutional.
“This pardon infringes on the constitutional rights of private litigants and the power of courts to uphold the Constitution, and so is outside the President’s constitutional authority,” Protect Democracy’s legal director Justin Florence told TPM in a statement Tuesday.
Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after he was convicted for violating court orders that barred his office from conducting discriminatory policing practices.
The conviction came after Arpaio was sued for discriminatory practices, with the suit claiming that Arpaio’s department intentionally targeted and detained Latinos living in his county. His office was issued a court order to halt the racially discriminatory traffic stops, but he refused to change the department’s policing tactics.
Arpaio was set to be sentenced for the conviction in October, but was spared from a possible prison sentence with Trump’s pardon.
Arpaio then moved to clear his criminal record, which Bolton, the local Arizona judge, denied.
Read the order from the 9th Circuit court below:
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the 9th Circuit Court. It is in California, not New York.