TIMELINE: Joe Arpaio's criminal contempt case

TIMELINE: Joe Arpaio's criminal contempt case

WASHINGTON ― An advocacy group run by former government attorneys says President Donald Trump's pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio is unconstitutional, and is urging a district court judge to refuse Arpaio's request to vacate his contempt of court conviction.

Arpaio, 85, was found guilty of criminal contempt in July for ignoring a judge's order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being illegal aliens. That means Arpaio won't have a chance to appeal the case, and the guilty verdict still stands. There have been controversial pardons before, he said, bringing up a NSFW one from Abraham Lincoln involving a horse, but even by those standards, President Trump's pardon of Joe Arpaio "was a doozy". Pardoning officials for disobeying court orders to stop violating people's constitutional rights undermines this constitutional right.

A recent poll by NBC News found most Americans and a majority of Arizonians oppose the president's pardoning of Arpaio.

The arguments are all similar to that laid out in the proposed brief (pdf.) by Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Criminal defense attorney and former law professor Michael E. Tigar, and attorney Jane B. Tigar.

Trump said he pardoned Arpaio because of his age and his record of protecting the people of his county.

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Though the president has the power to grant reprieves to any person for crimes against the United States, he does not have the power to vacate convictions.

Arpaio's case became moot "from the unpredictable grace of a presidential pardon", and not because of any action that Arpaio took to end it, the Justice Department lawyers wrote, quoting from an earlier case that also involved a presidential pardon.

Third, the brief argues that Article III courts have inherent power to enforce their orders "and this power exists outside and beyond legislative empowerment and executive whim".

Arpaio and a former county attorney who was later disbarred for corruption teamed up to investigate and prosecute several public officials in the Phoenix area, almost all of which were either dismissed or acquitted. "To paraphrase Daniel Webster, the power to pardon defiance of constitutional rights is the power to destroy those rights". The trio argue the pardon is void for three reasons.

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