"Since at least 2006 and continuing to the present, in violation of the First Amendment, MCSO and Arpaio have retaliated against critics of MCSO practices, and particularly MCSO's immigration practices, in an effort to punish these persons for their criticism and to prevent future criticism." The lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit notes that Sheriff employees filed complaints against county Judges with the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct and filed complaints with the Arizona state Bar targeting attorneys who publically complained about the Sheriff's office.
In December, the Justice Department released investigative findings of Arpaio's office, revealing significant civil rights violations, including the use of excessive force, and other systemic problems which lead the way to negotiations and the lawsuit.
The Justice Department's investigation into the sheriff's office began during the Bush administration in June 2008. There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into officials at the sheriff's office.
While no monetary damages are being sought by the Justice Department, the sheriff's office does receive federal funds which could be reduced as part of the investigation.
The Justice Department has only filed one other lawsuit against a local police department in the past 18 years since DOJ has been working on police reforms, that case against the Columbus, Ohio police department resulted in a settlement.