Today as Washington Post reports, Free Speech For People and United to Protect Democracy issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, urging it to oppose a motion by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to vacate his conviction, because of serious questions about the constitutionality of the pardon issued by President Trump.
Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt of court after he was found to have deliberately violated an injunction against illegally detaining persons of Latino ancestry. Two weeks after his conviction, on Friday, August 25, President Trump issued a pardon.
As noted by Professor Martin Redish in the New York Times just hours before Trump issued the pardon, the Constitution’s pardon power is broad but not unlimited. Like all provisions of the original Constitution of 1787, it is limited by later-enacted amendments, and in particular the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
As explained in detail in our letter, the president’s unprecedented pardon of Arpaio undermines the rule of law by immunizing unscrupulous law enforcement officials from judicial review. The role of the courts as protectors of individual rights will be nullified if they cannot execute and protect their own orders. The pardon itself conveys the unmistakable message that similarly-situated local, state, and federal law enforcement officials need not fear the judiciary, because if they run afoul of a court order, the president will pardon them. As our letter notes:
“This is an extraordinary request. But that is because of the president’s unprecedented action. Your duty to support and defend the Constitution, to protect the ability of the United States to enforce federal civil rights law, and to pursue justice on behalf of individuals whose constitutional rights have been violated trumps this pardon.”
Read our letter urging the Department of Justice to support and defend the Constitution by opposing Arpaio’s motion to vacate and dismiss his conviction.
Read today’s coverage by Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post.