Nick Hentoff has worked as an investigative reporter and independent journalist. For the last twenty years he has worked as a criminal defense and civil liberties trial attorney specializing in drug defense, use-of-deadly force and police misconduct cases. He is admitted to practice law in New York State.
Nick has developed extensive case-based research, interviewing and writing skills through his work as a journalist and the management of criminal defense and human rights investigations. He has written bylined articles in The Wall Street Journal and has had multiple op-eds published in The New York Times, the Washington Post and other national publications and online media. He has interviewed and deposed hundreds of police officers regarding their training, departmental policy and the specific contents of individual police reports. He also has experience dealing with print and broadcast journalists in high profile cases, including numerous interviews and appearances on local and national news programs.
Nick Hentoff has also produced and hosted a two-hour weekly interview-based legal affairs radio program, “Citizen Lawyer Radio,” on 1010 KXXT Air America Phoenix. The program focused on social justice issues.
Nick Hentoff was hired to expand the White Mountain Independent's coverage of news from the Navajo Nation. He wrote articles on cultural, educational, criminal justice and environmental issues impacting the Navajo Nation. He wrote a series of articles on the efforts of parents and teachers to close reservation schools contaminated with asbestos, including a two part profile of the activists and how they battled the Federal bureaucracy to accomplish their goals.
In 1985, Nick Hentoff enrolled in the University of Arizona School of Law where he continued to work as a freelance journalist, publishing op-eds in The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as articles in a number of national publications. Nick Hentoff also published two articles in the Arizona Law Review where he served as an Executive Editor.
From 1988 to 1990 Nick Hentoff served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Charles L. Hardy, a United States District Court Judge for the District of Arizona. Following his clerkship, Nick Hentoff joined the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office where he worked as a trial attorney handling everything from misdemeanors to capital murder cases.
"Phoenix lawyer Nicholas Hentoff, who filed all three suits, suspects that jailers have become more aggressive since Arpaio took office in 1993 because his tough talk gives the impression that he condones abuse of inmates.....
Napolitano and other Justice Department officials declined to say what sparked the investigation. But civil-rights probes commonly begin after complaints are made to the department.
In February, Hentoff wrote to the Justice Department, saying sheriff's officials may be violating inmates' civil rights."
See Susan Leonard, Arpaio Faces Rights Probe, The Arizona Republic, September 10 1995 at A1.
Nick Hentoff is a lawyer who, in true Arizona style, is a member of both the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1993 he was representing indigent inmates of the county jails, and he began noticing similarities in their accounts of torture by Arpaio’s guards. He filed suit on behalf of several such inmates, including Richard Post. When the case load became too much for him, he brought in another attorney, Joel Robbins. The lawsuits alleged that Arpaio created and nurtured a climate that encouraged the guards to abuse inmates.
The lawyers had a difficult task ahead of them. Arpaio’s popularity is like the summer heat in Arizona—it’s so relentless, so overwhelming, that it’s hard to imagine challenging it. When I told people what had happened to Richard Post, the most common response was, “Well, what had he done?” If Arpaio’s guards had tortured a paraplegic, he must have done something to deserve it. If other inmates were choked or beaten to death, it must have been their own fault. Criminals shouldn’t be mollycoddled. No one wanted to hear that 70 percent of those in jail hadn’t been convicted of anything. They were awaiting trial, didn’t have the money to make bail, and were presumed innocent.
The lawsuits started coming down, nearly a thousand of them, and many are still pending. So far, the total bill for jury awards and settlements is approximately $15 million. It would almost certainly be a few million more if Richard Post had taken his lawsuit to trial. Instead, just wanting it to be over, he accepted a settlement of $800,000.
In 2003 Nick Hentoff discovered, through a public records request, an e-mail that revealed undisclosed problems with the processing of DNA evidence in the City of Phoenix Crime Lab. The release of the email to the local press resulted in a review of crime lab procedures. See Susan Carroll, "Phoenix DNA evidence under fire: Possible contamination may hurt cases," The Arizona Republic, March 8, 2003.