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by Sharon Rondeau

Is U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow impartial in the case of Melendres, et al v. Arpaio, et al?

(Jun. 25, 2015) — In an order filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona dated September 11, 2014 dealing with a billing dispute between Maricopa County and a court-appointed monitor, Judge G. Murray Snow stated that “the Court has a high degree of personal familiarity that the Monitor Team is working very hard and performing the functions that are required of it, by the Court’s orders.”

Melendres 09-11-14 Billing Disputes

The monitoring team, Warshaw & Associates, was appointed by Snow on January 17, 2014 to ensure that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) complied with his orders in the case of  Melendres, et al v. Arpaio, et al, wherein Snow found that Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and his deputies had conducted neighborhood sweeps and traffic stops employing racial profiling.

The monitor’s base billing rate is $300 hourly, according to the filing.  In his order, Snow maintained that “…unlike many services provided to the County which are performed without the benefit of personal supervision, the Monitor is in constant communication with the Court regarding the performance of his services. The Court has regular, almost daily meetings with the Monitor when he is in Maricopa County, and frequent contact regarding developments and inquiries when he is not. Further, unlike time records submitted by attorneys, in which highly specific and detailed time records must be submitted, the Court has ordered the services of the Monitor and has dictated their scope.”

In response to the county’s objections to elements of the invoices received from Warshaw & Associates, Snow opined that the monitor is not “subject to the specific detailed inquiry [of an attorney] to determine whether the Monitor’s time is compensable. It presumptively is.”

After payment of the monitor’s first invoice dated February 2014 “under protest,” disputes arose over a rental vehicle, meal reimbursement, “block billing” and whether or not the time spent in preparing invoices is billable, among other items.

The order reveals that the monitor’s June 2014 invoice totaled $70,911.63 and was paid by the county, which derives its funds from the taxpayers.  Snow reported that “at least part” of the March and April 2014 invoice amounts were initially “withheld” by Maricopa County but that on May 15, 2014, “The Court made a ruling approving the billing and requiring the payment of those bills.”

Snow advised the monitor to provide additional detail in the invoices for the benefit of the county going forward.

Robert Warshaw, founder of Warshaw & Associates, has also been providing monitoring services to the Oakland, CA and Detroit, MI police departments for the last several years.  In order to make on-site visits, Warshaw’s company bills for flights from its home base in North Carolina.

In the same May 15, 2014 order stemming from a status conference the previous day, Snow wrote:

The Court orders that the Monitor shall submit future bills in the following manner. The Monitor will continue as he has in the past to submit publicly available bills to Maricopa County which include a narrative description of all monitoring activities. In addition, the Monitor shall submit more detailed time entries for all of his team’s activities to the Court alone. Those bills will include specific task-oriented time logs for the activities of the monitor team, including backup for support costs consistent with generally accepted accounting standards.

Sandi Wilson, the Deputy County Manager of Maricopa County, may, within the time periods provided in the County’s contract with the Monitor, review those more detailed bills in this Court’s chambers for the purpose of verifying or challenging before this Court the legitimacy of any entry and or all of the Monitor’s billings to the County.  In so doing, and for reasons set forth at hearing, Ms. Wilson is prohibited from communicating or providing or permitting access to any information concerning any aspect of those bills, their content, or their supporting documentation, to any person or entity other than: (1) any attorney or consultant the county designates pursuant to the terms of this order; (2) the Monitor; and (3) this Court.

Melendres May 15 2014 Billing Order

Last month, Snow suspended the procedure he had established a year prior, reportedly as a result of a request made by Maricopa County unassociated with the sheriff’s office.  Snow then assumed review and approval of Warshaw’s invoices himself, to which Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson, who had been reviewing the detailed invoices in the judge’s chambers each month, strongly objected.

Wilson’s counsel, Katherine E. Baker, stated in her Objection brief that Warshaw’s April 2015 bill contained “huge sums” (footnote, p. 5).  Baker claimed that her client had been placed in the position of having been ordered to “approve payment of an invoice without regard to whether it is reasonable, and without review of necessary documentation.”

Snow has been asked to recuse himself from the Melendres case by Arpaio’s defense team and Atty. Larry Klayman, who represents confidential informant Dennis Montgomery.  In breaking news Thursday morning, The Post & Email exclusively reported that certain ACLU attorneys representing the plaintiffs had entered into an attorney-client relationship with Montgomery in the recent past, failed to disclose it to the court, and defamed Montgomery as Snow asked specifically about Montgomery’s work for the MCSO during civil contempt proceedings against Arpaio in April.

The Melendres plaintiffs strongly objected to Snow’s proposed recusal from the bench.

In a possible reference to Montgomery, Klayman wrote at his Freedom Watch website on Thursday following an opinion issued by the U.S. Supreme Court that the federal subsidies in Obama’s health care law are constitutional:

Freedom Watch has grown especially concerned about the independence of the Supreme Court due to reports from a whistleblower that private information about Chief Justice John Roberts, and other judges and justices, were “harvested” illegally by the U.S. Government. Although it is illegal for the Central Intelligence Agency to operate within the domestic United States, a contractor whose company was hired to perform the “harvesting” for the CIA has come forward to blow the whistle. He claims to have proof that the CIA harvested personal and private information about Roberts and other federal judges and may be intimidating or subtly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court with the fear of personal attacks.

After hearing testimony from Arpaio and Chief Deputy Gerard Sheridan, Snow ordered that all of the work product Montgomery had produced for Arpaio be turned over to him and Warshaw, whose role as monitor was mandated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to be limited to rectifying constitutional violations.

As of this writing, Klayman’s brief containing the explosive allegations against the ACLU is still not posted at pacer.gov despite its having been stamped “filed” by someone at the U.S. District Courthouse.

Klayman claims that the Melendres plaintiffs’ attorneys have pursued Arpaio for political reasons.

A second order issued by Snow on September 11, 2014 indicates that law firms representing the plaintiffs were collectively paid close to $4 million at that time, with the bills footed by Maricopa County taxpayers.  The largest “award” went to Covington & Burling, a sizable firm which often defends large international banks and for which former Attorney General Eric Holder once worked.

Melendres 09-11-14 Covington & ACLU Bills

On Wednesday, a federal lawsuit was filed against Arpaio for allegedly targeting the son of a sitting U.S. Senator and his wife for political and malicious reasons stemming from the deaths of 21 dogs in the young couple’s care last year.  Arpaio has denied the claims.

The U.S. Department of Justice also has a pending lawsuit against Arpaio for alleged civil rights violations, with a bench trial scheduled to begin on August 10.

A citizen report that Snow’s wife had verbally expressed her husband’s “hate” for Arpaio and desire that he not be re-elected was found to be credible as stated in testimony by Arpaio and Sheridan in April.

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