President’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio is concerning on many levels

Posted 30 August 2017 at 11:03 am


It is difficult for me to understand how anyone, much less a conservative, could applaud President Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio.

No doubt some will dismiss what I intend to say here as some sort of “fake news”.

As I understand it, Arpaio defied a Federal Judge’s order to stop racial profiling in his efforts to enforce Arizona’s so-called “Papers Please” law. In July 2017, Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court and might have faced up to 6 months in jail had he not received a Presidential pardon.

Why should people who love this country care?

For one thing, the manner in which Arpaio enforced the Arizona law—if not the law itself—was arguably un-Constitutional. One’s complexion does not constitute probable cause. Under the Constitution as it is normally understood, law enforcement must have a reason—probable cause—to detain a person. In a free society with a Fourth Amendment, the notion that someone “looks foreign” is not a suitable substitute/excuse for pulling him/her over. There is no way of determining whether a person is a citizen/legal by looking at him/her.

Secondly, a court order is a court order. Obeying one is not optional. Certainly a sheriff should know that a court order must be respected if the rule of law is to be respected. The notion of what it means to be an example comes to mind. It is important that both sheriffs and Presidents are good ones.

Perhaps most important in my view is that this pardon is unfortunately consistent with President Trump’s record of disrespect for an independent judiciary. When a court has taken a position that he disagreed with in the past, he often suggested it was biased, the judge was a conservative or a liberal, depending on the issue, or the judge was of Hispanic descent, or whatever. Such comments encourage disrespect for an institution—the judiciary—that civil society depends on. Now that he is President, this becomes increasingly important.

There is no doubt that the President has Constitutional authority to issue pardons. Nonetheless, Danielle Pletka of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, speaking on Meet the Press, expressed alarm over the pardon of Sheriff Arpaio—in very strong language—for some of the reasons mentioned above.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent