In 2012, the Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), alleging that the department and its Sheriff, Terry S. Johnson, routinely discriminated against Latinos in violation of federal law. It took two years for the case to go to trial.
Almost three years after the original filing — and a year after trial — a federal judge has dismissed the case. At issue was whether the DOJ had demonstrated that the ACSO had engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional law enforcement against Hispanics.
Judge Thomas Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina held that the DOJ’s statistical study was not enough, and that witness testimony contradicted the federal government’s case:
Not a single person testified that any ACSO employee carried out any alleged improper director or otherwise violated any individual’s constitutional rights. Indeed, all witnesses, including those called by the Government, denied that they ever did or knew any ACSO officer who did.
The American Civil Liberties Union was unhappy with the decision, and has urged the DOJ to appeal. Such an appeal would likely see the case drag on for many years more than it already has. Alamance County taxpayers have already expressed concern that the case has been a waste of the county’s financial resources. The county’s legal defense costed more than $600,000. The county has not decided whether it will ask the DOJ to pay its court costs, but has 30 days to file such a request.