Immigration protester's lawsuit dismissed

by JJ Hensley - Jun. 22, 2012 10:03 AM
The Republic |

A federal judge dismissed a wrongful-arrest lawsuit brought by a woman who was arrested with demonstrators outside of the Fourth Avenue Jail in 2010 as they were protesting Arizona's controversial immigration law.

U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake ruled Friday that Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies had probable cause to arrest Sunita Patel as she stood on a sidewalk and gutter near the driveway of the jail, and that the individual law-enforcement officers named in the lawsuit were protected by qualified immunity.

Patel is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and was serving as a legal observer during the demonstrations in July 2010 when thousands of people protested Senate Bill 1070 as it was about to take effect. Some of the demonstrators interlocked their arms in front of the jail's main gate to form a "daisy chain" and others did not immediately move when sheriff's deputies ordered the protesters to disperse, prompting mass arrests.

The charge against Patel for obstructing a thoroughfare was dismissed in June 2011.

A month later, Patel sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff's Office, a handful of deputies and Arpaio's former Chief Deputy David Hendershott claiming wrongful arrest.

But Wake ruled that Patel's actions after the deputies ordered the crowd to disperse - briefly standing in the jail's driveway, walking through the driveway and standing in a nearby concrete gutter- provided law enforcement with probable cause to arrest her.

"Some protesters chose to remain in the driveway and to be arrested," Wake wrote. "While standing in the concrete gutter, one of her feet was partially located on the asphalt portion of the driveway. Under the totality of the circumstances, a prudent person would have believed that Plaintiff committed a willfully failing to comply with an officer's order or direction."

Immigration protester's lawsuit dismissed