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Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Class Action Suit Brought Against Arizona’s Proposition 100

file00064248474.jpgIn 2006, the voters of Arizona approved Proposition 100 which denies bail to defendants if they are suspected of being in the country illegally. The ACLU, representing two prisoners in Maricopa County, Arizona, brought a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of Proposition 100. In a split decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s judgment to dismiss the suit.

As an immigration lawyer, I am intrigued how the laws of states like Arizona have a bearing upon the actions of legislators in Texas and the U.S. Congress. When a law like Proposition 100 is passed and then challenged, I am eager to learn how the judicial opinion was reasoned. In split decisions like Lopez-Valenzuela v. County of Maricopa, the majority and dissenting opinions provide cause for speculation about further legal actions including a U.S. Supreme Court hearing or adoption by other states.

The case arose from the arrests of Angel Lopez-Valenzuela and Isaac Castro-Armenta. Lopez-Valenzuela was charged with drug transportation and intent to sell, while Castro-Armenta was charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping and providing assistance to a criminal syndicate. Probable cause for illegal status was found in each case and bail was denied under Proposition 100. The two defendants then combined their constitutional challenges to Proposition 100, along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

In Lopez-Valenzuela v. County of Maricopa, two of the three presiding judges supported the lower court’s opinion to dismiss the lawsuit, but one of the judges provided an opinion that strongly supported the arguments of the appellants. Judge Richard Tallman, who wrote the majority opinion, stated that the state had a legitimate interest in prohibiting release of serious criminals. He also stated that he could not discern a punitive motive in the law.

In his dissent, Judge Raymond Fisher dismissed the reasoning that undocumented status could be closely tied with flight risk. He contended that statements from the bill’s author, State Representative Russell Pearce, that all undocumented aliens should be deported, was enough cause to determine punitive intent. Fisher went on to argue that a blanket denial was excessive and more customized responses like monitoring, reporting and bond determinations were more appropriate in limiting flight risks.

The dismissal of the lawsuit is not likely to end the debate over Proposition 100. The lead counsel for the ACLU, Cecilia Wang, has promised to appeal the decision and take it before the entire 9th Circuit. Wang stated that the law was unconstitutional because it imposes unconstitutional restrictions on defendants suspected of minor crimes like shoplifting.

As a seasoned legal professional, I am eager to see how this legal challenge is resolved. I believe that there are strong arguments to consider on both sides of the issue, which suggests the case may rise to the highest levels of the U.S. judiciary. If you or someone you know has questions or concerns about this case or other related legal issues, please call my office at (512) 215-5225 to set up a private consultation.