PHOENIX — Two newspaper executives who were arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office after a series of critical articles can sue the man who calls himself America’s toughest sheriff.
The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday overturned a lower court ruling that Phoenix New Times co-owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin could not sue authorities for the 2007 arrest.
The men were arrested after New Times stories revealed that Arpaio’s allies in the Maricopa County attorney’s office obtained a grand jury subpoena to identify sources for articles about the sheriff.
Arpaio and the prosecutors eventually backed off.
The 9th Circuit majority ruled the news executives could sue Arpaio for false arrest and violations of their First and 14th Amendment rights, among other claims.
“It is hard to conceive of a more direct assault on the First Amendment than public officials ordering the immediate arrests of their critics,” the 9th Circuit majority wrote. “And, in this case, there was nothing subtle about their efforts to stifle the New Times.”
New Times is an alternative weekly that is part of Village Voice Media.