Joe Arpaio

PHOENIX — Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is already fighting federal contempt charges, faces a new legal hurdle on another front, as the lawyer representing him in two other immigration-related cases quit.

Attorney Tim Casey told judges handling the other cases he is “ethically required” to withdraw as the legal counsel for the sheriff and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. In legal papers filed in both cases, Casey said he cannot disclose the reason.

But Karen Clark, whom Casey has hired as his own ethics counsel, said the move is directly related to testimony Arpaio gave last week that Casey, as his attorney, hired a private investigator to look into allegations Judge Murray Snow’s wife told someone Snow “wanted to do everything to make sure I’m not elected.” Snow is hearing Arpaio’s contempt case.

What complicates the matter, Clark said, is Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio’s chief deputy, testified the following day there was no investigation into Snow, his wife or his family.

That puts Casey in the position of being the person who has the knowledge to reconcile, if possible, the two versions of the story. But Clark also said her client is limited in what he can say.

“Mr. Casey is aware of his obligations as an officer of the court to be completely candid with the tribunal and to cooperate with the court, while at the same time remain in strict compliance with his ethical obligations to his former clients Sheriff Arpaio and the MCSO,” she said. “Those duties include maintaining client confidentiality as well as attorney-client privileged information.”

It remains to be seen whether Casey will be called as a witness when the contempt hearings resume in June.

The case before Snow involves charges the sheriff and his top officers ignored the judge’s orders to stop racially profiling people.

That stems from what Snow found were practices of deputies stopping and detaining people largely because they were Hispanic, in looking for people who were not in the country legally. The judge said the practices continued even after the Department of Homeland Security stripped the sheriff’s department of its authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Arpaio has conceded the judge’s orders were not followed, saying he delegated compliance to others, and that the injunction “slipped through the cracks.” Snow is now deciding whether to hold the sheriff and others in contempt and, potentially, whether to follow up with criminal charges.

It was during Snow’s direct questioning of Arpaio last week that the subject of Casey hiring an investigator came up.

“Results confirmed that your wife was in that restaurant,” the sheriff responded. He said the investigator, after talking to person who provided the tip, apparently “confirmed that that remark was made.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Arpaio didn’t respond directly to questions about the investigations into the comments by Snow’s wife, and another by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has a separate racial profiling case against MCSO.

“I’m not going to get into semantics about investigations,” Arpaio said. “But we did the right thing and that’s the way it is and I’m not going to talk about it. The truth will come out.”

He didn’t respond to a question he was trying to get Snow removed from the case.

Casey’s disclosure of his ethical conflict related to the case before Snow came in separate filings that went to U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bolton is hearing arguments by groups trying to void the last key section of the 2010 state law targeting those in the country illegally, requiring police to question people they stop about their legal status.

The U.S. Supreme Court, while voiding some sections of the law, refused to declare that provision unconstitutional on its face.

Casey’s filing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court relates to a lawsuit challenging a 2006 voter approved measure denying bail to those charged with “serious felony offenses” if they are in this country illegally and if “the proof is evident or the presumption great” the person is guilty of the offense. Casey represents the sheriff and Maricopa County in that case.

Last year the appellate court blocked Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery from enforcing the ban. The case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Casey’s withdrawal does not leave Arpaio without legal representation. Casey, who is in private practice, said the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has been involved in both cases and can continue to handle matters.

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