FOLLOWING MONEY IN 2016 PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Monday, April 21, 2014

BREAKING: Arizona's SB1070 Legal Defense Fund Nearing Zero; $3.5M To Attorneys To Date, Latest Chapter Cost Approx $750K

Governor Brewer's SB1070 legal defense fund is nearing zero, after having spent approximately $3.5 Million on attorneys since the law was passed in 2010.  The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the state's appeal of an injunction against one portion of the well-known illegal immigration enforcement law, but litigation over the remaining portions continues.

(For sidebar story on the cost of Arizona's appeal that the Supreme Court did hear - the big Arizona v. U.S. case in 2012 - please click here.)

Arizona's Politics conducted an initial review of the Governor's Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense Fund (aka "Border Security Fund") today, and concluded that approximately $220,000 remains as of today.  However, the last legal services bill showing as paid on the Arizona Open Books website was December 30,2013; the petition denied today was filed January 6, 2014, so substantial fees are currently owing.

The legal defense fund was established by an Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Executive Order shortly after she signed SB1070.  $3.6M was donated within one month of the webpage being set up, and contributions are still trickling in ($190 in Feburary 2014).

94% of those funds are gone.

Approximately $2M has been paid to the law firm of Snell & Wilmer over the past four years.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its major opinion striking down three provisions of the law and upholding the section that requires law enforcement to attempt to determine immigration status of someone they have a reasonable suspicion is present in the state illegally on June 25, 2012, the Border Security Fund has paid out $715,000 for legal services and related expenses.

The injunction that was left in place today by the Supreme Court is only part of the litigation brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, and much of that case is still pending.

What Arizona will do if and when the Border Security Fund is exhausted is not yet known.  A further appeal for donations, an appropriation by the Legislature, an agreement by Snell & Wilmer to reduce their legal bills, and winding down the litigation are all possible results.  (Or, a combination thereof.)

It is not unusual for opponents of SB1070 to refer to the taxpayer monies being used by the state to defend the law.  This is basically inaccurate.  However, because we have seen Arizona (and, other states) re-purpose funds (tobacco settlement, mortgage assistance, to name two), it is not far-fetched to consider that the Legislature could choose to end litigation and use leftover monies (if any) for other, related law enforcement needs.

(For sidebar story on the cost of Arizona's appeal that the Supreme Court did hear - the big Arizona v. U.S. case in 2012 - please click here.)


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