Joseph Popolizio 2018-02-07T10:00:18+00:00

Joseph Popolizio

TEL: 602.263.1741
FAX: 602.200.7876

Legal Assistant: Melissa Ward

Joe Popolizio maintains a diverse complex litigation practice representing public and private sector clients in the areas of governmental liability, civil rights, corrections defense, wrongful death, and personal injury.  

Representing public entities, Joe defends governmental entities, law enforcement personnel, elected officials, municipalities, and private correctional facilities in cases involving claims for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 including wrongful death and excessive force claims in police and detention settings, as well claims for racial profiling and discriminatory policing under Title VI and 42 U.S. Code § 14141. Joe has also successfully defended governmental clients in high-profile matters involving the Department of Justice and the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission. 

For clients in the private sector, Joe is experienced representing business owners and corporations in cases involving commercial tort law, including interference with business advantage, defamation, tortious interference with contractual relationships, quiet title, suretyship, community association issues, and product liability. His representation of companies in these areas and risk management, combined with his extensive jury trial and arbitration experience, is well recognized. Joe’s ability to handle a myriad of complex civil litigation matters has been a hallmark of his career. 

United States of America v. Maricopa County, et al, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, CV12-00981-PHX-ROS
Brought by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, this case involved a Title VI investigation and resulting action. The DOJ easily forced most other municipalities and law enforcement entities into consent decrees in law enforcement and jail settings. However Joe ensured the DOJ presented only facts with no embellishment, defended the DOJ’s accusations vigorously, and was prepared for trial on allegations of retaliation, racial profiling, and discrimination against Spanish speaking inmates. The DOJ withdrew and the result was no consent decree and no court appointed monitor assigned to oversee MCSO jails or law enforcement operations stemming from this action. Instead, the DOJ entered into an unprecedented settlement agreement, allowing MCSO to adopt minor policy changes and to continue to operate its jails the way it had been operating them.  

Of special note, Joe helped develop a cutting edge LEP (Limited English Proficiency) Unit and Program within the Maricopa County Jails that is unrivaled in any jurisdiction or facility, including federal facilities. Recently, the DOJ announced that it will not continue its oversight of the Maricopa County Jails due to the changes and innovations that Joe helped implement. 

United States of America v. Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, No. CV10-01878-PHX-GMS
With a court appointed monitor already in place, Joe took over the compliance arm of this action, after several attorneys had failed to address, timely comply with, and weigh the appropriateness of the demands by the monitor’s team, the ACLU, and the DOJ. Within several months of assuming this role, Joe and his team restructured the client’s approach, developed a compliance system for the client, and cleared the backlog of monitor requests. This placed the client in a position to work on eliminating monitor, DOJ and ACLU oversight and control of law enforcement operations.   

Gotbaum v. City of Phoenix, 617 F. Supp. 2d 878 (D. Ariz. 2008)
Joe successfully defended the City of Phoenix in a high-profile, nationally-covered wrongful death action stemming from the in custody death of Carol Gotbaum, a politically well-connected New York City socialite. Although Plaintiff’s demand was in the multi-millions, the case settled for a nominal amount and less than Plaintiffs’ costs.   

In addition, Joe’s motion practice resulted in a reported decision on an issue on which the Plaintiffs and defense bar were in dispute—whether the Phoenix Police Department could be sued. The result was that the Phoenix Police Department was not a jural entity and therefore could not be sued. This decision greatly reduced exposure to the client in this and future lawsuits, and paved the way for a similar decision for another Valley governmental entity. 

Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, et al v. Joseph M. Arpaio, et al, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, CV-0702513-PHX-GMS

Professional Associations & Memberships

  • Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pro Tempore, 2013-Present 
  • PRIMA (Public Risk Managers Association), 2011-Present 
  • State Bar of Arizona, Professionalism Committee, 2011-Present 
  • Defense Research Institute , Lawyers’ Professionalism and Ethics Committee; Vice Chair of the Webinar Committee
  • Maricopa County Superior Court Bench, Bar Committee, year-year 
  • Arizona Association of Defense Counsel, Member, year-year 
  • Arizona’s Finest Lawyers, Sustaining Member, 2015-Present 

Civic/Community Associations 

  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Team in Training Participant (two marathons and two centuries; Past Board Member 
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training, “Rock Star Status” Award for Exceptional Fundraising
  • Courthouse Experience, 2000 – 2003 
  • Volunteer Lawyers Program, 1996 – 1998 

Professional Recognitions & Awards 

  • Listed, Arizona’s Finest Lawyers 
  • Trial Courts in Maricopa County Award for Significant Contributions to the Administration of Justice, Law Day, May 2003

Presentations & Publications 

  • Professionalism Course, Past Instructor, State Bar of Arizona
  • “Is Perception Reality OR Is Reality Truly Perceived? Media Coverage and Police Brutality Cases,” Co-Presenter, PRIMA 2017 Annual Conference, June 2017 
  • “Social Media in Litigation, Friend or Foe,” Co-Presenter, Arizona PRIMA Chapter Meeting, December 2016
  • “Anatomy Of A Lawsuit” Co-Presenter, 2016 PRIMA Summer Education Series, July 2016 
  • “Work Comp and General Liability Claims Issues,” Co-Presenter, 2015 PRIMA Summer Education Series, July 2015
  • “Rapid Fire Drill  – AZ Case Law Updates,” Presenter, JSH Seminar, October 2013 
  • “Defending Police Liability Claims,” Presenter, Arizona Association of Defense Counsel, 2013 
  • “1983 Claims: Judgment Call or Judgment Day?” Co-Presenter, Arizona Public Risk Association’s Summer Educational Series, Flagstaff, September 2013
  • “Handling the Police Liability Claim: An Overview of State Law and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Actions Against Police Departments and Officers,” Presenter, National Business Institute, Handling the Police Liability Claim, May 2013
  • “Ethical Pitfalls of Multiple Client Representation,” Co-Presenter, Arizona Counties Insurance Pool’s Sixteenth Annual Public Practice Legal Seminar, May 2013
  • “1983 Claims: Judgment Call or Judgment Day,” Co-Presenter, Arizona Counties Insurance Pool’s Sixteenth Annual Public Practice Legal Seminar, May 2013
  • “Overview of Police Liability Claims,” Presenter, The Arizona Paralegal Association Spring Seminar, May 2013
  • “Ethical Pitfalls of Multiple Client Representation,” Co-Presenter, JSH Current Issues in Government Liability Seminar, November 2012
  • “Excessive Force: Judgment Call or Judgment Day,” Co-Presenter, JSH Current Issues in Government Liability Seminar, November 2012
  • “Police Liability Claims,” Presenter, National Business Institute, Legal Issues Involving Local Governments, October 10, 2012
  • “Course on Professionalism,” Presenter, State Bar of Arizona, 2012 
  • “Appropriate Application of Comparative Fault Principles Under A.R.S. Section 12-2506,” Speaker, PRIMA Summer Educational Series, August 2011
  • “Are You Talking About Me? An Overview of Defamation Law,” Speaker, Arizona Paralegal Association Seminar, April 2008
  • “Defamation: When Disparaging Statements Result in Liability,” Co-Author, JSH Reporter, Spring 2008


Western New England College School of Law, J.D., 1990 
Boston College, B.A., Independent Major in American Studies, Political Science and History, cum laude, 1986

Bar Admissions

U.S. District Court, District of Arizona
Colorado River Indian Tribes Tribal Court
White Mountain Apache Tribal Court
U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut 
Connecticut (Inactive) 
District of Columbia (Inactive) 
U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Inactive)