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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Judge Rules Against Sheriff in Jail Abortion Dispute

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
, the man who bills himself as “America's Toughest Sheriff“, has been dealt a stinging rebuke by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge who has ruled the Sheriff cannot demand inmates prepay the cost of transportation to the abortion clinic.

Sheriff Joe's Tents
Sign at the Tent City Jail near Downtown Phoenix

Sheriff Arpaio had maintained the inmates pay up to $600 in transportation and security fees in advance for busing them to and from the abortion clinic. In 2005 an injunction was filed against the Sheriff's Office, prohibiting the practice. The Sheriff appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court. He lost his appeals.

The American Civil Liberties Union had successfully argued that prepayment creates obstacles to a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion in a timely manner. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig agreed. However, neither the American Civil Liberties Union nor the judge disputed the Sheriff Departments right to seek reimbursement of costs. Predictably, Arpaio is expected to appeal the ruling.

Sheriff Arpaio is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, he has received endless media attention for his outdoor jail facilities and for serving his inmates green bologna. Along the way, his public antics have gained him as many supporters as critics.

The outspoken sheriff has made the headlines frequently in recent weeks in a separate dispute with the Obama administration over his aggressive approach to illegal immigration enforcement. Arpaio has been re-elected four times since assuming the office in 1996. A 2007 recall petition failed to collect enough signatures to put the recall to a vote.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

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