PHOENIX – A lawyer for an Arizona sheriff known for his efforts against illegal immigrants said Thursday that the U.S. Justice Department's threat to sue over records for its civil rights investigation is premature because his client is willing to cooperate with certain elements of the probe.
Earlier this week, the department gave Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office until Aug. 17 to turn over documents first requested last year.
The Justice Department has been investigating Arpaio's office since March 2009 for alleged discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and having an English-only policy in his jails that discriminates against people with limited English skills.
Arpaio believes the inquiry is focused on his immigration efforts.
Robert Driscoll, a Washington lawyer representing Arpaio, said his client has fully cooperated in the inquiry into his jails, but won't hand over additional documents in the examination into the unconstitutional search allegations because federal authorities won't say exactly what they are investigating.
Driscoll said the Justice Department has made overly broad requests for records that could cost huge sums of money to fulfill and that federal authorities were given thousand records that were handed over in a lawsuit that alleges Arpaio's deputies racially profiled Hispanics in immigration patrols.
"The DOJ should have all the information it needs to evaluate whether it believes (the sheriff's office) has violated the law, or, at a minimum, more than enough information to define what they are looking for," Driscoll said in a statement.
The Justice Department had no immediate comment Thursday.
In a separate investigation, a grand jury in Phoenix is examining allegations that Arpaio has abused his powers, such as allegedly trying to intimidate county workers by showing up at their homes at nights and weekends.