First Amendment Rights Prove Historic With Landmark Case by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin

As journalists for the Phoenix News Times, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin knew their First Amendment rights on October 18, 2007. That is the day which they were both arrested by the Selective Enforcement Unit after a series of stories they had written about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, including allegations involving his Deputies. They had written about the racial profiling of Latino’s who were being harassed by the Deputies on the order of Sheriff Arpaio. It was their journalistic duty to report stories as the facts would lead them.

Michael and Jim originally met while attending college at the Arizona State University. They teamed up to bring their journalistic talents together and began a successful and popular readership-following from their news articles with the Phoenix News Times. The two were considered as having editorial influence through their popularity as credible journalists.

As Michael and Jim continued to write about the Sheriff’s Office, they uncovered shocking information relating to financial improprieties, unfair treatment of inmates, racial bias and intimidation, unlawful detention as well as U.S Constitution violations. The facts of the stories were not received very well by Sheriff Arpaio who grew increasingly more annoyed with the information being made public.

As “America’s toughest Sheriff”, Arpaio did not take the stories lightly. Through an attempt of intimidation and blatant abuse of power, Sheriff Arpaio put pressure on the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to issue Michael and Jim subpoenas in order to get them to release information pertaining to the stories written in the Phoenix News Times by the journalists.

Michael and Jim refused to cooperate with the subpoenas and included that information in subsequent stories written within their news column. They included the facts that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was requesting IP addresses, search history and browsing activity of readers who obtained the articles as well as all notes, research and editor material that was used to write the content.

Michael and Jim were arrested on October 18, 2007, and released within 24 hours after an outcry within the Phoenix area. They subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office –including Arpaio– and ultimately settled the case for $3.75 million. In 2013, Michael and Jim formed the Lacey and Larkin Fund with the proceeds from the settlement. The fund is used to fight against injustices within the Latino, immigrant and migrant worker community.