I have received a fair amount of criticism for writing that President Donald Trump was within his authority to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio as well as my skepticism of the challenge to the pardon by Berkeley law dean Erwin Chemerinsky and others. While I opposed the pardon and said that I viewed Arpaio was in open contempt of the court, I viewed the challenge to the pardon to be without merit. Now U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has rejected the challenge by Chemerinsky and dismissed the guilty verdict in the contempt case.
Arpaio, 85, was found guilty of contempt for violating a federal judge’s order to stop detaining citizens on suspicion of being illegal immigrants. Bolton ruled the pardon was constitutional and rejected the novel argument by Chemerinsky that a contempt conviction is not an “offense against the United States” within the meaning of the Constitution’s grant of pardon power in Article II.
None of this means that the pardon was wise or just but it was constitutional.