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The other Ariz. immigration case: Parties seek civil class action

The Obama administration’s pending Supreme Court challenge to Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070, which among other things requires police to check the immigration status of detained individuals who are suspected of being in the country illegally, isn’t the only court battle surrounding the controversial measure.

A group of immigrants and immigrants’ rights groups are seeking to bring a class action lawsuit alleging that the law violates individuals’ Fifth Amendment right to due process, First Amendment right to free speech and 14th Amendment right to equal protection, according to the Arizona Republic.

“A lot of focus has been placed on the federal government’s lawsuit, but our case focuses on the civil-rights violations that SB 1070 will cause,” attorney Chris Newman with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network told the paper. More on that story here, and more Supreme Court news can be found on Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court report.

If Ariz. immigration law upheld, flurry of new state laws to follow

A Supreme Court ruling upholding the Arizona immigration law that authorizes police to check the immigration status of detained individuals could spur other state legislators to quickly move to adopt similar measures, state lawmakers say.

So far five states have enacted immigration measures like Arizona’s, but similar bills have been introduced in 36 states. State legislators and legal analyst told the AP that a Supreme Court ruling in Arizona’s favor would spur a new push to get those laws passed.

“There will be an enormous amount of energy spent in next few months examining the full range of possibilities,” Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform told the AP.

Lawmakers from about a dozen states told the AP that they stand at the ready to press forward should the Supreme Court rule that such measures are not preempted by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

Arizona immigration law challenge could end in a tie

Gov. Jan Brewer and attorney Paul Clement, far right, leaving the Supreme Court Wednesday after oral arguments in Arizona v. U.S. (Photo: Kimberly Atkins, Lawyers USA)

There is bad news and good news for the Obama administration as it seeks to have Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law SB 1070 struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bad news: four out of the eight justices who heard the case today seemed to side squarely on the side of Arizona officials who say the state statute does not conflict with federal immigration law. (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, likely because she was involved in the challenge while she was Obama’s solicitor general).

If, as it seemed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and presumably Clarence Thomas (Thomas does not speak during oral arguments, but he is a vocal opponent of the doctrine of implied preemption) are inclined to rule in favor of the state, the best the federal government can do in its challenge is tie – assuming noted swing voter Justice Anthony M. Kennedy votes in the administration’s favor.

But the good news is that a tie would be a win in this case. If the Court splits, the case goes back to the 9th Circuit, which has already given a strong indication that it would strike down the law when it upheld a preliminary injunction preventing the law from going into effect.

Much more on the arguments later on Lawyers USA online.

Supreme Court saves AZ immigration law challenge for last

The Supreme Court is set to end its oral argument season with a bang this morning, as it hears the challenge to Arizona’s immigration law which authorizes police officers to check the status of any detained individual the officer suspects may be an illegal immigrant.

The law is being challenged by the Obama administration, which argues that federal immigration law preempts state measures such as Arizona’s SB 1070. But state officials say they have the right to enact state immigration laws, particularly where – as they claim here – federal law is ineffective.

Stay tuned to Lawyers USA online and this blog this afternoon for updates on the arguments.

Brewer and Obama bicker publicly as immigration battle looms

We already knew the pending Supreme Court showdown between Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the Obama administration over the controversial Arizona immigration law SB 1070 would be explosive. But yesterday we got a glimpse of the bubbling animosity between the parties.

As the Court prepares to hear the debate over whether the state statute directing police to check the immigration status of detainees believed to be in the country illegally is preempted by federal immigration law, Brewer and President Obama had a heated exchange yesterday.

After Brewer greeted Obama as he stepped off Air Force One outside of Phoenix, she handed him a letter and then the two engaged in a heated discussion. According to the Associated Press, both Brewer and Obama appeared to be smiling, but speaking over each other for several moments. At one point, Brewer waved her finger in the president’s face.

Asked about the exchange afterward, Brewer said: “He was a little disturbed about my book.”

In her recent book “Scorpions for Breakfast,” Brewer described a meeting she had with Obama at the White House to discuss immigration. “I felt a little bit like I was being lectured to, and I was a little kid in a classroom, if you will, and he was this wise professor and I was this little kid, and this little kid knows what the problem is and I felt minimized to say the least,” Brewer said.

According to Brewer, Obama objected to the book’s implication that she was mistreated at the White House

“I said to him, you know, I have always respected the office of the president and that the book is what the book is,” Brewer said. “I said that I was sorry that he felt that way. Anyway, we’re glad he’s here, and we’ll regroup.”

Brewer said the letter she handed Obama was an invitation to have lunch and visit the border.

Here’s hoping oral arguments at the Supreme Court in April are as exciting.

Arizona files SCOTUS cert petition over immigration law

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a 9th Circuit ruling blocking enforcement of parts of the state’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, which allows police to check the immigration status of individuals.

The move officially puts the case before the nation’s highest court, which must now decide whether to take the matter up next term. At issue in the case is whether states have the ability to implement tough immigration laws, or if that area is solely within the jurisdiction of federal lawmakers.

“It’s going to be pretty hard for the federal government to deny these are issues of primary importance,” said Paul Clement, a Washington, D.C., attorney hired by Brewer to prepare Wednesday’s petition, according to the Arizona Republic. “It’s not like immigration is an area of absolutely exclusive federal control, and with Arizona bearing such a disproportionate burden (of the immigration problem), a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t make sense.”

Legal commentators on an online symposium hosted by SCOTUSblog have been chiming in for weeks with opinions on whether the Court will rule in the Arizona’s favor, or side with the federal government – or whether the Court will decide to take up the matter at all.

Next stop for Az. immigration law case: Supreme Court? (access required)

After a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling striking key parts of a controversial Arizona immigration measure, Gov. Jan Brewer may take her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court next.

“I remain steadfast in my belief that Arizona and other states have a sovereign right and obligation to protect their citizens and enforce immigration law in accordance with federal statute,” Brewer said in a in a joint statement with state Attorney General Tom Horne after yesterday’s 9th Circuit ruling.

After the Justice Department challenged the law, an Arizona district court blocked enforcement of several of its provisions – including the requirements that law police check the immigration status of individuals stopped for other matters, and that non-citizens carry immigration papers with them at all times – holding that they were preempted by federal immigration law. The appellate panel affirmed.

Brewer has several options now: appeal to the full panel of the 9th Circuit, allow the case to be remanded back to the district court to consider whether the block on enforcement is constitutional, or appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is already deliberating the constitutionality of another Arizona law which imposes sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers and mandating the use of the federal E-Verify database. A ruling in that case, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, is expected before the Court’s term wraps in June.

Friday morning docket: Tailgate edition

ballCongress continues to wrangle with President Barack Obama’s plan to stimulate the nation’s economy as new indicators show the fiscal crisis is just getting worse. Meanwhile, Obama is reported to be hosting group of union leaders at the White House today, where he will undo several Bush-era executive orders that have been criticized as anti-union. And all is quiet at One First Street, NE, as the Supreme Court is on a nearly month-long hiatus.

As you prepare your Super Bowl party menus, here’s a quick look at legal news headlines:

Preempting preemption? Bad news for preemption proponents: Obama is ushering in a new era of “progressive federalism” by giving states more leeway to regulate environmental, consumer protection and other issues. (NYT)

A sticky situation: Lawmakers are looking into stricter regulations on food producers to prevent massive and costly recalls of dangerous products, like the recent peanut butter salmonella fiasco. (NYT)

No illegal credit? GOP sources say the new economic stimulus plan making its way though congress expressly bars illegal immigrants and nonresident aliens from receiving tax credits. But Democrats say the bill has nothing to do with immigration, and accused the GOP of scare tactics. (AP)

Cramdown bill advances: A bill that would give bankruptcy judges more leeway in adjusting homeowners’ mortgage terms has advanced in Congress. (Lawyers USA)

Another E-Verify delay: The federal government has again delayed implementation of a rule requiring all companies working on federal contracts to electronically check the legal working status of their employees through the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system. (Lawyers USA)

Senator to Microsoft: lay off foreign workers first

Sen. Chuck Grassley has something to say to Microsoft about the way the company plans to implement its recently-announced layoffs: Axe the foreign employees first to save more Americans’ jobs.

But such a plan might violate anti-discrimination laws, some legal experts say.

grassleyGrassley, who has often decried the of the use of “special occupation” H-1B visa program in the tech industry, sent a letter to Microsoft last week after the company announced it would eliminate 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months.

Noting that last year Microsoft executives went to Capitol Hill to urge for an increase of H-1B visas, Grassley urged the company to prioritize American employees.

“H-1B and other work visa programs were never intended to replace qualified American workers,” Grassley’s letter stated.  “Certainly, these work visa programs were never intended to allow a company to retain foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American workers, when that company cuts jobs during an economic downturn.

“It is imperative that in implementing its layoff plan, Microsoft ensures that American workers have priority in keeping their jobs over foreign workers on visa programs….Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times,” Grassley continued.

Grassley went on to ask the company which types of positions were being eliminated, how many are held by American workers and which are filled by foreign guest workers, and how many guest workers will remain after the reduction in force is completed.

But Cletus Weber, partner at the immigration law firm Peng & Weber, told The Seattle Times that targeting H-1B visa holders might be a legally risky move for Microsoft.

“I know of no immigration law that would require Microsoft or any other U.S. company to lay off its lawfully employed foreign workers first,” Weber told the paper. “To the contrary, I believe arbitrarily laying off lawfully employed foreign workers first would subject these companies to potential legal liability under federal anti-discrimination laws.”


Yuletide wrap


DC Dicta will be taking a holiday hiatus until after the New Year. But before you rush off to do all that last-minute gift shopping, here’s one last look at the legal news:

Chamber’s suing mad: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the legality of a Bush administration rule requiring all companies working on federal contracts to electronically check the legal working status of their employees through the E-Verify system. (Lawyers USA)

IRA help must wait for New Year: Congress has passed a bill that will suspend the rule requiring retirees over the age of 70 1/2 to withdraw a certain amount from their retirement accounts in 2009. But the Treasury Department announced that no such similar suspension will be made for 2008, meaning anyone who has yet to meet the minimum distribution requirement must do so by Dec. 31. (Lawyers USA)

Holiday Pardons: President Bush issued 19 pardons this week – but none was for Scooter Libby. (Washington Post, New York Times)

FDA takes another look at BPA: First the FDA called the chemical safe, then a wave of scientific reports questioned that finding. Now the FDA is taking another look at the chemical bisphenol-A, a controversial component found in products such as baby bottles. (New York Times)

Pleading the Fifth – a little too late: A witness in convicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ corruption trial said he should have evoked his constitutional right not to testify instead of taking the stand and incriminating himself. (AP)

Luck be a justice tonight: How does someone become a Supreme Court justice? Says retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: be “the right person in the right spot at the right time. Simply stated, you must be lucky.” (USA Today)

The year that was: As the year comes to a close, here’s a look at the most popular online stories of the year from Lawyers USA. (Lawyers USA)

Happy Holidays!