Monday, April 11, 2011

Quickie Analysis Of 9th Circuit Ruling Upholding Stay On Arizona's SB 1070

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today issued a 2-1 ruling upholding a stay that is keeping the key provisions of last year's controversial SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law from taking effect in Arizona.  Pending a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. lawsuit against Arizona's law is sent back to U.S. District Court for proceedings on the merits.

The Arizona Republic has posted an excellent summary of the decision, along with a link to the 92-page ruling itself.  A quick review of the ruling prompts this brief analysis:

1) All three judges on the appeals court panel wrote their own opinions.  Judge Richard Paez wrote the main opinion.  Judge John Noonan wrote a brief concurring opinion in which he discussed the importance of the Arizona Legislature's intent in passing the law.  Judge Carlos Bea wrote a lengthy opinion in which he dissented in part but concurred in part.

2) The majority opinion quickly points out that it should only reverse District Court Judge Susan Bolton's decision to grant the injunction if she abused her discretion and applied an erroneous legal standard or on clearly erroneous findings of fact.  It analyzes the preemption principles of each of the four key provisions that Bolton stayed, and found that she properly applied all four.  (In the first stayed section, the majority finds that Arizona's argument contradicted the plain text of the law.)

3) The dissenting opinion agrees that sections 3 and 5(c) (of the law) should be constitutional and therefore should not be enjoined.  Judge Bea agreed with the majority on sections 2 and 6. 

Section 2 requires officers to determine immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion that the stopped person is in the U.S. illegally; section 6 authorized officers to arrest - without warrant - anyone they believe has committed an offense that would make them removable from the country.

4) The U.S. Department of Justice is required to file an answer (in District Court) this week to Arizona's counterclaim.  That deadline is unaffected by today's appellate ruling.

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