A year after Sunita Patel, a civil rights attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), was arrested while documenting law enforcement activity during protests against Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law, CCR and Patel jointly filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona against Maricopa County, Sherriff Joe Arpaio, and several other officials within the Sheriff’s office on the grounds of unlawful arrest and detention, and for violating Patel’s First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights during her arrest and detention.
The lawsuit centers around a July 29, 2010 incident in which journalists and legal observers alike were arrested for their association with a lawful protest and documenting police activity. Patel was detained for fifteen hours and repeatedly interrogated about her place of birth and immigration status. The suit seeks changes in police policies and damages for the harm Patel suffered during the incident and the subsequent prosecution of the case.
Darius Charney, representing Patel and CCR said, “Time and time again, the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office, under the direction of Sherriff Arpaio, has demonstrated a desire to strip away rights from immigrant communities and anyone who tries to protect their rights. The Sheriff should change its policies to reflect training and supervision of officers in compliance with the Constitution.”
After over 10 months of prosecution on the charges that Patel had disobeyed a police order and obstructed a public thoroughfare, attorneys for Maricopa County filed a motion to dismiss the case “in the interest of justice.” On June 14, 2011, the judge granted the request.
Sunita Patel is also one of the attorneys representing the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case against ICE and other federal agencies seeking records about the Secure Communities program.