A group of 25 members of the United States House of Representatives filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief to oppose Joseph Arpaio’s effort to vacate the guilty verdict in his criminal prosecution for contempt of court. President Trump issued a pardon of Arpaio for the criminal conviction.
The brief was prepared and filed by Brad Miller and Spencer Scharff. Miller, the principal author of the brief, was a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 until 2013 and is now Of Counsel to the law firm of Guttman, Buschner & Brooks. Scharff is a civil rights lawyer in Phoenix.
A federal court ordered Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, not to detain anyone on suspicion only of undocumented immigration status, a suspicion based entirely upon racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio told Fox News that he would “never give in to control by the federal government,” and openly disobeyed the court order.
The brief argues that the presidential pardon “is an encroachment by the Executive on the independence of the Judiciary.” The power of the courts to punish contempt, the brief argues, “is essential to the independence of the judiciary,” just as Congress’s power to punish for contempt of Congress is essential to the independence of the legislative branch.
The matter is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The trial court held that the pardon spared Arpaio from punishment for criminal contempt, but did not vacate the guilty verdict or other orders in the prosecution.
The House Members on the brief include Jerrold Nadler, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee; Steve Cohen, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet; and David N. Cicilline, Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
Other Members on the brief are Theodore E. Deutch, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal, Sylvia Garcia, Joe Neguse, Madeleine Dean, Veronica Escobar, Jim Costa, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Reuben Gallego, Raul M. Grijalva, Barbara Lee, Grace F. Napolitano, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frank Pallone, Jr., Jackie Speir, Juan Vargas, and Nydia M. Velazquez.
“We have probably not heard the last of the potential for corrupt abuse of presidential pardons,” Miller said. “The old court decisions said the idea that the president might promise pardons to subordinates who violate the law at his direction was too unlikely to consider.”
“It doesn’t seem at all unlikely now,” Miller said. “There are allegations that President Trump ‘dangled’ pardons to witnesses in the Mueller Investigation to encourage the witnesses not to cooperate in the investigation.”
The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing March 27, 2019 on “Examining the Constitutional Role of the Pardon Power.”
Guttman, Buschner & Brooks PLLC is a boutique complex litigation law firm with a diverse group of attorneys, including a former Congressman, a former Federal District Court Judge, a former Commissioner of the OSHA Review Commission, a law professor who is a national expert on complex litigation and trial practice, a former attorney with the FDA and the EPA who also holds a medical license and continues to practice, and former federal law clerks and prosecutors. The firm’s attorneys, litigating under state and Federal False Claims Acts have represented clients in cases returning more than $6 Billion to the government. Recent recoveries include a $280 million recovery in a non-intervened case against Celgene Corporation (U.S. ex rel. Brown v. Celgene) and a settlement against Humana Inc (US ex Rel Graves v Humana, et al.); both achieved on the brink of trial. In addition to the recent Celgene and Humana litigations, attorneys at the firm represented the lead whistleblower in U.S. ex rel. McCoyd v. Abbott Labs, which involved the recovery of $1.6 billion for the government; one of several whistleblowers bringing FCA cases against GlaxoSmithKline in 2012, which resulted in the recovery of $1.04 billion (U.S. ex rel. Graydon v. GSK); one of the whistleblowers bringing FCA cases against Pfizer which resulted in the recovery of $2.3 billion (U.S. ex rel. DeMott v. Pfizer); the lead whistleblowers in U.S. ex rel. Sandler and Paris v. Pfizer, which resulted in recovery of $257.4 million; the lead whistleblower in U.S. ex rel. Szymoniak v. Bank of America, which resulted in the recovery of $95 million; three of the whistleblowers in FCA cases against a large hospital chain (U.S. ex rel. Doghramji v. CHS), which resulted in the recovery of $98 million; the lead whistleblower in U.S. ex rel. Kurnik v. Amgen, which resulted in the aggregate recovery of $30 million from Amgen, Inc., Omnicare, and PharMerica Corp.; and the whistleblower in U.S. ex rel. Abrahamsen v. Hudson Valley, which resulted in a recovery of $5.5 million to the federal government and state government.
Among other prominent cases, the firm is currently a class counsel in class action lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Corrections seeking to secure the treatment of inmates who have Hepatitis C.