Joe Arpaio

Arpaio Attorney Threatens Harvard Law Prof With Libel Suit Over Op-Ed

Arpaio doesn't like to be reminded he was held in contempt of court


Gage Skidmore

When Joe Arpaio reads a column he doesn't like, he doesn't fire off a letter to the editor. Instead, his lawyer threatens to sue the writer. Sheriff Arpaio the bully is Citizen Arpaio the bully.

Is this the further breakdown in understanding of free speech in this country? At the very least it's a sign that the belief in silencing someone's speech with legal threats, however futile, is alive and well.

Mark Goldman, Arpaio's attorney, sent a letter to Andrew Crespo, a Harvard Law professor, reminding him about libel law and requesting he retract a statement he made about Arpaio in an op-ed he wrote for the Boston Globe.

Specifically, Goldman insisted the statement "Arpaio was convicted of violating a court order that directed him to stop arresting Latinos unless he had probable cause that they had committed a crime" was false and misleading.

"Given your legal education, experience and expertise as claimed in your bio at Harvard Law School, you must be aware that your following statement in your Op/Ed is false and misleading," Goldman snarked to Crespo.

In the current fashion, Goldman also asked Crespo in the letter whether his employer had approved the op-ed or been aware it would be published. If so, Goldman asked for the names of those at the school knew of or approved the op-ed.

Snitching to employers has become a popular tool in the tool box of the free speech-hater, be they Twitter trolls or lawyers.

Crespo responded to Goldman, and posted both letters on Lawfare because, he said of the "tendency of late for our political leaders to threaten lawsuits as a way to try to suppress speech that they find critical or unflattering."

He linked to a Columbia Journalism Review article chronicling the numerous incidents in which Trump threatened to sue journalists over the course of the campaign. Read the entire exchange here.

Crespo explained in his letter what he had written about Arpaio was factually true, and noted that even if it weren't, Arpaio is a public figure and "even a statement that is flatly false cannot support a libel claim, absent a showing, as required by the First Amendment, that the allegedly defamatory statement was published "with 'actual malice'."

Given that Goldman is (presumably) an accredited lawyer, he should've known the libel laws don't apply here. Crespo hinted at that, reminding Goldman that if Arpaio were to sue Crespo, the former sheriff "would be liable for a judgment ordering him to compensate [Crespo] financially for any fees or costs that [he] might incur responding" to the lawsuit, since it was "devoid of reasonable factual support or arguable basis in law."

Crespo's op-ed was a suggestion that the judge in Arpaio's case hire a special prosecutor to question the constitutionality of Donald Trump's pardon of Arpaio. The judge is considering it.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post said the judge had already decided to appoint a special prosecutor. I apologize for the error.

NEXT: Chelsea Manning Loses Her Harvard Gig, Japan Considers a Military Build-Up, and a Federal Judge Says Sessions Can't Deny Sanctuary Cities Funds: P.M. Links

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  1. Threatening a lawsuit is probably the nicer version of Sheriff Joe compared to what he probably used to do with people that crossed him. Lot of bones in the desert, people get lost out there all the time.

    1. “Lot of bones in the desert, people get lost out there all the time.”

      As we can see by a substantial portion of the “freedom-loving” commentariat right here, those bones are those of “illegal humans”… Those sub-humans guilty of crossing arbitrary lines in the sand, drawn by Government Almighty… And so… T-H-E-Y… J-U-S-T… D-O-N-‘-T… M-A-T-T-E-R-!-!-! LAW-BREAK-ERS = = sub-humans, ya know…

      (Their bones are just like cow-bones, horse-bones, and antelope-bones, mere physical artifacts).

      1. Could you be a bit more specific about who is calling illegal immigrants subhuman?

        1. People like Sheriff Joe Stalin and admirers of Charles Manson, The Manson-Jar-Headed mass murderer, and others consumed by unreasoning, evil hatred of illegal humans, that’s who I am thinking of, specifically…

          1. “admirers of Charles Manson”

            Do you even post-modern, bro? My handle alludes to the fact that there’s an Asian-American named Robert Lee who got some hassle because he had the same name as the famous Confederate general.

            1. OK,gotcha, the media here isn’t very transparent, some flavors of sarcasm are lost on us ignorimatti… I will have my sarcasmometer re-calibrated post haste…

  2. “Crespo’s op-ed was a suggestion that the judge in Arpaio’s case hire a special prosecutor to question the constitutionality of Donald Trump’s pardon of Arpaio. The judge took the advice.”

    Wait, what? Talk about burying the lede.

    1. Well, what do you know

      “…attorneys from across the country filed a flurry of motions to be heard in the case and for Bolton to reject the pardon as unconstitutional….

      “”We think this pardon is unconstitutional and dangerous,” [Ian] Bassin [“former associate White House counsel to President Obama”] said. “It’s an unprecedented use, and (challenges) the power of the courts to enforce their own powers to protect people’s rights.””

      Hmmm…now let’s look at the right to be free from terrorist atrocities and take a look at Obama’s pardons of terrorists.

      Or just accept that a pardon is a pardon even if the President issuing the pardon isn’t the President you wanted elected.

      Next step

      1. There is no constitutional limit on the President’s pardon power, and it is intended to be a check on judicial power. There has been standard practices about how it is usually implemented, and if a quid pro quo for a pardon can be proven, may be an impeachable offense but neither of those limit the scope of the pardon authority. There is no merit to these motions.

        1. But Mickey, did you get the part where Trump is a Republican? And he shouldn’t be President anyway, Hillary should!


          1. Come on man, groove to it, you’ll be able to *see* the penumbras and emanations!

  3. There’s a possibility Trump’s pardon wasn’t constitutional?

    1. There’s a possibility that partisan hacks think everything they don’t like is unconstitutional.

  4. hire a special prosecutor to question the constitutionality of Donald Trump’s pardon of Arpaio

    US Constitution, Article 2, Section 2:

    The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

    1. You missed the part that someone scribbled in the margins of my copy: “except when a Republican is in office.”

  5. I see we all thought alike. I suppose the phrase “Offenses against the United States” means only federal crimes, not state or local. Otherwise I can’t see how the language could be any plainer.

  6. If Arpaio’s threatened lawsuit has no factual or legal merits, then no it foes represrnt a change in understanding about free speech.

    1. You can read “understanding” to refer to the population broadly and not just the people who decide the legal merits. Overall, I agree it doesn’t really signify any change, but Ed actually leaves that question open-ended; he just says that it’s “a sign that the belief in silencing someone’s speech with legal threats, however futile, is alive and well.”

      1. But it still only reflects on Arpaio and his lawyer, not the general population.

  7. Even if he loses, I gotta admit that arresting Latinos without probable cause is still pretty badass.

    1. Next bad-ass feat? Those who question The Trump, get shipped off to re-education camps!

      All who commit crimes in support of The Trump, will be pardoned! All who exercise free speech in opposition to The Trump, will be re-educated!

      I do NOT give ONE flipping FUCK if Presidential pardons are Cunts-Tit-utional or not; it is a provision, in EVIL hands, that is WIDE open to fiat-dictatorial abuse! And yes, I do believe the Trumpster-to-the-Dumpster is a rampant self-adoring narcisist, to the point of being EVIL!!! (Yes, THAT particular judgmental 4-letter word!).

      1. The TDS is strong with this one.

        1. I had to look that one up……..term=Trump Derangement Syndrome

          Yes, Trump is a deranged narcissist!

          1. Reason mangles links in a new way now… TDS = Trump Derangement Syndrome…

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