"Birther" activist and attorney Larry Klayman is threatening to sue Respect Arizona, the group behind a recall effort aimed at controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. According to the Associated Press, Klayman's freshly established group, Citizens To Protect Fair Election Results, insists that the recall effort is "unconstitutional" and that it will hinder Arpaio's ability to serve the state and its people, but the challenge may not stand up to legal scrutiny.
At a press conference on Thursday, Klayman said, "We need people like Sheriff Joe not to be intimidated by vigilantes." He called the recall campaign "a harassment of the sheriff, such that he can no longer do his job on behalf of the people.”
Klayman is a noted conspiracy theorist and backer of the so-called "birther" movement, people who believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and who are still unconvinced by the versions of the president's birth certificate that have been shown to the public. He represented the website World Net Daily in a lawsuit against Esquire magazine over a piece satirizing WND, a suit that was ultimately thrown out of court.
Reporter Brahm Resnik of the Arizona Nightly News said that Citizens to Protect Fair Election Results, which is made up largely of tea party members, many of whom dabble in birtherism, may be headed for a rude awakening in court.
Klayman's suit contends that under Arizona election law, petitions calling for the recall of an official cannot be circulated until six months after the official has been elected. Pointing to Arpaio's re-election in November, Klayman said Respect Arizona is breaking the law.
Resnik, hoever, pointed out that the term clock does not reset with each election.
"If Klayman had consulted the Secretary of State’s election handbook," the reporter said, "he would have seen the second sentence of the state law in big bold letters: ‘The commencement of a subsequent term in the same office does not renew the six month period delaying the circulation of petitions.’”
Arpaio is on his sixth term at the head of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department (MCSD), meaning the protections against recall petitions do not apply to him.
Recall organizers say that Arpaio has been found in violation of federal law and that his department prioritizes immigration enforcement above all other matters. They cited the failure by sheriff's office to investigate more than 400 sex crimes as evidence that the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America is unfit to hold his current office.
Critics accused Arpaio of attempting to deflect attention from the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s lawsuit against his department in 2012 when the sheriff organized a "posse" to investigate the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate.
The DOJ suit against Arpaio accused the MCSD of targeting Latinos unlawfully and engaging in "rampant racial profiling and illegal stops" of motorists. Arpaio has been fighting the DOJ's investigation and findings about his department since December of 2010, when he was found to be in violation of civil rights law and of the stipulations of a ruling against his department from 1997.
Arpaio, said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez in July 2012, has been found to consistently exhibit "a pattern or practice of unlawful discriminatory police conduct" that targets "Mexicans and Latinos as different from all other immigrant groups in America."
Watch video about this story, embedded below via Arizona Nightly News from Phoenix NBC Channel 12: