A woman prays during a march around the US Federal Courthouse in Phoenix Thursday, the first day of a civil trial against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on charges that his department routinely uses racial profiling to target Latinos.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio's legal problems are coming to a head. Today marked the first day of testimony in the federal class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU and MALDEF against the Sheriff and MCSO alleging that he and his deputies use racial profiling in the pursuit of undocumented immigrants.
Cameras are not allowed in federal court, so all the "action" takes places on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. This morning there was about 40 human rights activists opposed to the Sheriff's tactics and 2 people who support the Sheriff holding vigils and protests.
The trial is expected to take about two weeks and should end in early August. Next on the docket, after this civil trial, is the Department of Justice's lawsuit against Arpaio. The DoJ also alleges that the MCSO engages in widespread racial profiling.
All of this is unfolding in the midst of the 2012 election season. Arpaio is running for reelection. Despite his legal problems, he still holds a lead in public opinion polls and a commanding lead in fund raising, though most of his money comes from out of state.