SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Ariz. employer sanctions law

sustained

By Mark Sherman

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law last Thursday that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.

By a 5-3 vote, the court said that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.

The ruling cheered supporters of tougher immigration laws who said it would encourage states to take new steps, especially in the employment area.

The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Last Thursday's decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.

Still, the ruling placed the court's five Republican appointed justices on the side of the state, and against the Chamber of Commerce, which challenged the law along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said Arizona's employer sanctions law "falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama's solicitor general

Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.

Employers "will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States," he said.

The Obama administration backed the challenge to the law. The measure was signed into law in 2007 by Democrat Janet Napolitano, then the governor of Arizona and now Obama's Homeland Security secretary.

The employer sanctions law has been only infrequently used. It was intended to diminish Arizona's role as the nation's hub for immigrant smuggling by requiring employers to verify the eligibility of new workers through a federal database. Employers found to have violated the law can have their business licenses suspended or revoked.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, praised the high court's decision. "Not only is this law constitutional, it is commonsense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers," Smith said.

Lower courts, including the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, previously upheld the law.

Last month, a three-judge panel of that same appeals court upheld a trial judge's ruling blocking enforcement of parts of the broader Arizona immigration law, known as SB1070. The provisions that were blocked include a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, must question a person's immigration status if officers have reasonable suspicion the person was in the country illegally. State officials have said they will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The ACLU's Cecillia Wang said the Supreme Court decision was disappointing, but narrow. "The decision has nothing to do with SB1070 or any other state and local immigration laws," said Wang, director of ACLU's immigrant rights project.

But Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, said the ruling should encourage states to play a larger role in immigration matters.

"While it's not a definitive answer to the main Arizona case, it certainly is a helpful sign from our perspective," Sekulow said. He filed a brief in support of the law that was upheld last Thursday.

The case is Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, 09-115.

Pre-trial motions don't count

in deadline

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court says the time courts spend dealing with pretrial motions automatically increases the time the government is allowed before bringing a suspect to trial.

Despite that, the high court last Thursday refused to grant the government's request to reinstate Jason Louis Tinklenberg's conviction of gun possession by a felon and possession of material used to manufacture methamphetamine.

The Speedy Trial Act says a defendant's trial should begin within 70 days of his indictment or his initial appearance before a judicial officer.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the pretrial motion days did count because they did not delay the eventual trial.

But the high court ruled that all time used to dispense with pretrial motions do not count toward the Speedy Trial deadline. "The filing of a pretrial motion falls within this provision irrespective of whether it actually causes, or is expected to cause, delay in starting a trial," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion for the court.

But the appeals court made other mistakes in its decision that favored Tinklenberg, which led to Breyer and the high court to throw out Tinklenberg's conviction.

Tinklenburg has already served his full sentence.

Breyer was joined in his judgment by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined the decision only in part.

Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision because she worked on it while serving as solicitor general.

The case is United States v. Tinklenberg, 09-1498.

Court tosses

ruling on

interviewing

children

By Jesse J. Holland

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court last Thursday threw out a lower court's ruling that authorities need warrants to talk to potential victims of sex abuse at school, without saying whether it thought the earlier decision was wrong.

The high court tossed out the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of a 9-year-old who was interviewed by a social worker and a police officer at school in Oregon because they suspected that she was being abused by her father. The girl is now nearing her 18th birthday and living in Florida.

The challenge to a court ruling that affects children in Oregon is moot because the girl, known in court papers as S.G., would no longer be affected by its outcome, Justice Elena Kagan said in the 7-2 decision.

"She faces not the slightest possibility of being seized in a school in the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction as part of a child abuse investigation," Kagan said. "When 'subsequent events make it absolutely clear that the alleged wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur,' we have no live controversy to review."

Because the case is moot, the Ninth Circuit's decision forcing child social worker Bob Camreta and other authorities to get warrants also is moot, Kagan said. "The happenstance of S.G.'s moving across country and becoming an adult has deprived Camreta of his appeal rights," she said.

Camreta and a police officer interviewed S.G at the child's public school so that her father wouldn't be present. The girl said during the interview that she had been sexually abused by her father. She later recanted the statements.

Charges against her father were dropped.

But the girl's mother sued, saying her daughter had been unconstitutionally seized at school because she was removed from her classroom, taken into another room and questioned.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying the social worker and police officer should have gotten a warrant, a court order or parental consent before talking to the child, or should have demonstrated that they acted with probable cause and under exigent circumstances. But it also ruled that Camreta and the police officer had immunity from damages resulting from the lawsuit, saying no clearly established law warned them of the illegality of their conduct.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer joined Kagan in her judgment.

Justice Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying they would have dismissed the case because Camreta and the police officer won when the court said they had immunity from damages.

The cases are Camreta v. Greene, 09-1451 and Alford v. Greene, 09-1478.

Conviction in killing of officer overturned

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man who fatally shot a police officer in Florida in 1998.

The high court last Thursday said the lower court should reconsider the conviction of Charles Fowler, who was given life in prison for the shooting death of officer Todd Horner.

Fowler was convicted under a federal law that bans people from trying to keep U.S. officials from being informed about a potential federal crime. Horner was killed when he approached a group of men who were planning a bank robbery.

Fowler's lawyers said prosecutors never proved Horner would have alerted federal authorities to a potential federal crime.

Justices agreed that proof is needed under that law, and sent the case back.

The case is Fowler v. United States, 10-5443.

Published: Mon, May 30, 2011