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Settlement in Sheriff Arpaio civil rights lawsuit approved by judge

PHOENIX - A judge has approved a nearly two-month-old settlement ending a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department that alleged several civil rights violations against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver officially signed off Wednesday on the agreement that resolves allegations Arpaio's office retaliated against its critics, discriminated against Latinos during the sheriff's now-defunct workplace raids and punished Latino jail inmates with limited English skills for speaking Spanish.

As part of the settlement, the sheriff's office agreed to establish policies barring retaliation and rules that would govern any future workplace raids if Arpaio were to resume them.

The Justice Department focused in part on allegations Arpaio's office retaliated against county officials and judges who were at odds with him in political and legal disputes from 2007 until 2010.

The agency arrested two county officials and a judge on corruption charges that quickly collapsed in court. The county agreed to pay $8.7 million to settle lawsuits by people who said they were investigated on trumped-up allegations. Arpaio contended he was trying to root out corruption in county government.

Arpaio raided dozens of businesses from 2008 through mid-2014 in busts that led to the arrests of more than 700 immigrants who were charged with using fake or stolen IDs to get jobs.

Nine months ago, Arpaio voluntarily stopped the raids, shortly before a judge barred county officials from enforcing two laws that were the legal underpinning of the raids, which were Arpaio's last major foothold in immigration enforcement.

Even with the settlement, the Justice Department is continuing its legal efforts against Arpaio. The federal agency recently joined a separate racial profiling lawsuit that was pressed against the sheriff's office by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Two years ago, the case's judge concluded Arpaio's office had systematically racially profiled Latinos in its regular traffic and immigration patrols and ordered changes that were intended to remedy the constitutional violations.

Lawyers who pressed the profiling case are expected to ask the judge for even more changes as part of contempt-of-court hearings next month against Arpaio for his acknowledged violation of the judge's orders in the profiling case.

A series of depositions began Thursday in preparation for the contempt hearings. The hearings could lead to fines, increased oversight of the agency and a possible criminal contempt hearing for the sheriff.

An Arpaio lawyer has expressed hope that the contempt case could be settled before the sheriff undergoes contempt hearings on Sept. 22.

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