United States v. Maricopa Cnty.

Decision Date12 December 2012
Docket NumberNo. CV–12–00981–PHX–ROS.,CV–12–00981–PHX–ROS.
Citation915 F.Supp.2d 1073
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA; et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona


Edward G. Caspar, Jennifer Larissa Mondino, Jonathan M. Smith, Sergio Perez, U.S. Dept of Justice–Civil Rights, Roy L. Austin, Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Dept of Justice, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Dan K. Webb, Joel E. Connolly, Winston & Strawn LLP, Chicago, IL, Richard K. Walker, Robert L. Dysart, Walker & Peskind PLLC, Scottsdale, AZ, for Defendant.


ROSLYN O. SILVER, Chief Judge.

Pending before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Docs. 35 and 37). For the reasons below, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) will be dismissed, but the claims against Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio (“Arpaio”) and Maricopa County, Arizona (the County) will be allowed to proceed.


On May 10, 2012, the United States of America (Plaintiff) filed a Complaint against the County, MCSO and Arpaio in his official capacity. The Complaint alleges six claims for relief: Count One for intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in violation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141 (Section 14141) and the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment; Count Two for unreasonable searches, arrests and detentions lacking probable cause or reasonable suspicion in violation of Section 14141 and the Fourth Amendment; Count Three for disparate impact and intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d–2000d–7 (Title VI); Count Four for disparate impact and intentional discrimination against limited English proficient (“LEP”) Latino prisoners in violation of Title VI; Count Five for disparate impact and intentional discrimination in violation of Defendants' contractual assurances under Title VI; Count Six for retaliation against Defendants' critics in violation of Section 14141 and the First Amendment. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 165–188). Defendants move to dismiss.

A. Legal Standard

Under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quotation omitted). A plaintiff must allege facts sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’ Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955).


The MCSO moves to dismiss because it is a non jural entity, incapable of suing or being sued in its own name. State law generally determines a party's capacity to be sued. SeeFed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). Under Arizona law, “Government entities have no inherent power and possess only those powers and duties delegated to them by their enabling statutes. Thus, a governmental entity may be sued only if the legislature has so provided.” Braillard v. Maricopa County, 224 Ariz. 481, 232 P.3d 1263, 1269 (Ariz.Ct.App.2010) (citations omitted). In Braillard, the Arizona Court of Appeals recognized the question of [w]hether MCSO is a nonjural entity is apparently an issue of first impression in our state courts.” Id. The Court noted, [a]lthough A.R.S. § 11–201(A)(1) provides that counties have the power to sue and be sued through their boards of supervisors, no Arizona statute confers such power on MCSO as a separate legal entity.” Id.Braillard “therefore conclude[d] MCSO is a nonjural entity and should be dismissed from this case.” Id. The MCSO's motion to dismiss will be granted because the MCSO is a nonjural entity.1

C. Sheriff Arpaio1. Disparate Impact Claims in Counts III, IV and V

Counts III, IV and V allege disparate impact and intentional discrimination under Title VI. The Sheriff seeks to dismiss the disparate impact portion of Counts III, IV and V for failure to allege sufficient statistical evidence of discriminatory effect.

A prima facie case of disparate impact requires the plaintiff: (1) identify the specific practices or policies being challenged; (2) show disparate impact; and (3) prove causation. Rose v. Wells Fargo & Co., 902 F.2d 1417, 1424 (9th Cir.1990). The second and third factors are generally shown with statistics. Id. To establish causation, the plaintiff must offer “statistical evidence of a kind and degree sufficient to show that the practice in question has caused the exclusion of [a particular group] because of their membership in a protected group.” Id. (citing Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977, 108 S.Ct. 2777, 2788–89, 101 L.Ed.2d 827 (1988)). “The statistical disparities ‘must be sufficiently substantial that they raise such an inference of causation.’ Id. (quoting Watson, 108 S.Ct. at 2789). “The ‘significance’ or ‘substantiality’ of numerical disparities is judged on a case by case basis.” Id. (citing Watson, 108 S.Ct. at 2789 n. 3).

At the motion to dismiss stage, a complaint need not allege statistical data. McQueen v. City of Chi., 803 F.Supp.2d 892 (N.D.Ill.2011) (“A Title VII disparate impact claim need not allege statistical support to survive a motion to dismiss.”) 2; Garcia v. Country Wide Fin. Corp., No. EDCV 07–1161–VAP (JCRx), 2008 WL 7842104 (C.D.Cal. Jan. 17, 2008) (plaintiff “is not required at the pleading stage to produce statistical evidence proving a disparate impact”) (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964–65). “It would be inappropriate to require a plaintiff to produce statistics to support her disparate impact claim before the plaintiff has had the benefit of discovery.” Jenkins v. N.Y. City Transit Auth., 646 F.Supp.2d 464, 469–70 (S.D.N.Y.2009). At the motion to dismiss stage, “there is no reason [a plaintiff] would have this kind of statistical evidence yet.” Mata v. Ill. State Police, No. 00 C 0676, 2001 WL 292804, at *4 (N.D.Ill. Mar. 22, 2001).

The Sheriff argues these cases are no longer good law because they rely on Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002), which has subsequently been overruled. However, Swierkiewicz was overruled because it applied a standard less than the plausibility standard set forth in Twombly and Iqbal. Here, Plaintiff does not argue for a standard less than plausibility. Plaintiff acknowledges the plausibility standard. Although Swierkiewicz was overruled by Twombly and Iqbal, post-Twombly and Iqbal cases have held statistical data is still not required at the motion to dismiss stage. See McQueen, 803 F.Supp.2d 892 (citing Iqbal );Jenkins, 646 F.Supp.2d at 469–70 (citing Iqbal and Twombly );Garcia, 2008 WL 7842104 (citing Twombly ).

The Complaint alleges MCSO officers routinely and unlawfully target Latinosthrough pretextual traffic stops. As a result, vehicles occupied by Latinos are far more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than those occupied by non-Latinos.3 The Complaint alleges: MCSO officers detain Latinos in cars or at worksites without probable cause; Defendants select locations for large-scale crime suppression sweeps based on complaints by non-Latino residents that Latinos are in those areas, resulting in extensive seizures of law-abiding Latinos who happen to be present; MCSO officers detain all Latinos during worksite raids and do not detain non-Latino employers during such raids; and when MCSO officers search suspected drop houses, they also detain law-abiding Latinos in neighboring houses with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion. As a result, Latinos are far more likely to be deprived of their constitutional rights than non-Latinos. The Complaint alleges Defendants failed to develop and implement policies and practices to ensure LEP Latino inmates have equal access to jail services such as sanitary needs, food, clothing, legal information and religious services. The Complaint alleges the discriminatory conduct of MCSO officers is facilitated by broad, unfettered discretion and lack of training and oversight.

Plaintiff has alleged (1) a practice or policy being challenged; (2) disparate impact; and (3) causation. Rose, 902 F.2d at 1424. Plaintiff has alleged “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). As such, the Sheriff's motion to dismiss the disparate impact claims in Counts III, IV and V will be denied.

2. LEP Discrimination

The Sheriff moves to dismiss Count IV and part of Count V insofar as they allege discrimination against LEP Latino prisoners. The Sheriff argues Title VI's prohibition against intentional discrimination “on the ground of race, color, or national origin” does not cover language proficiency. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. In other words, the Sheriff argues language is not a proxy for national origin.

However, longstanding case law, federal regulations and...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Arizona
    • January 5, 2015
    ...this issue has held that Arizona counties are liable for law-enforcement decisions of local sheriffs. See United States v. Maricopa Cnty., 915 F.Supp.2d 1073, 1083–84 (D.Ariz.2012) ; Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio, 598 F.Supp.2d 1025, 1038–39 (D.Ariz.2009) ; Guillory, 2006 WL 2816600, at *3–5.M......
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    • November 30, 2016
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    • Detention and Corrections Caselaw Quarterly No. 60, June 2014
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