Court: Sheriff Joe Can Play Christmas Music
Sheriff Joe Arpaio (AP Photo)
The Washington Times via YellowBrix
December 21, 2009
Sheriff Joe Arpaio – the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in America – likes Christmas music, especially “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and apparently he thinks the 8,000 inmates inside his Phoenix jail should, too.
So it was with some glee that his Maricopa County office announced Thursday in a red-and-green press release that the “sixth and perhaps final lawsuit” brought by inmates to stop the sheriff from playing the holiday songs all day, every day, during the holidays had been dismissed in federal court.
“We keep winning these lawsuits. Inmates should stop acting like the Grinch who stole Christmas and give up wasting the court’s time with such frivolous assertions,” it read. “But chances are they’ll keep suing and we’ll keep winning.”
The latest lawsuit was filed by inmate William Lamb, who said that being forced to listen to the Christmas songs 12 hours a day was a violation of his civil and religious rights. But U.S. District Judge Roz Silver disagreed, dismissing the case and denying Lamb’s claim for $250,000 in damages.
Sheriff Arpaio catapulted to national attention when he cracked down on the thousands of illegal immigrants who swarm daily through his county; put inmates in pink jumpsuits and underwear; worked them in chain gangs; housed them in tents in the Arizona desert and fed them bologna sandwiches.
He said that his Christmas selections were multi-ethnic and culturally diverse, from all faiths and ethnicities. He told The Washington Times earlier this year that in addition to tunes by Alvin and the Chipmunks, the music included the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Bing Crosby and Doctor Demento.
At the time, he said “all people everywhere deserve a little Christmas cheer.”
Lt. Brian Lee, the sheriff’s spokesman, said the court issued a summary judgment upholding the decision to “inject the holiday spirit into the lives of those incarcerated over the holiday season in the third-largest jail system in the U.S.”
He said inmates have sued six times claiming the music was in violation of their religious rights or cruel and unusual punishment, but the court disagreed – finding no evidence of fact, so Sheriff Arpaio was entitled to the judgment as a matter of law.