In this case, filed on August 15, 2006, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a collection of public interest organizations challenged the Pennsylvania city of Hazleton's ordinance penalizing those who rent to or hire undocumented immigrants. This was the first city ordinance of its kind, and the suit received a great deal of press. The ordinance, titled "Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance" (Immigration Ordinance), immediately served as a model for several dozen other cities' similar enactments.
The same day that the suit was filed, public interest organizations representing the plaintiffs sent a letter to the City requesting that it revoke the Immigration Ordinance at the council meeting that evening. The City declined and instead passed a companion ordinance titled "Tenant Registration Ordinance" (Registration Ordinance).
Under threat of litigation, on September 1, 2006, the City entered a stipulation, filed with the District Court (Judge James M. Munley), to forego enforcement of the Immigration Ordinance until it gave the plaintiffs 20 days' notice and the plaintiffs agreed to forego seeking an injunction until there was an actual threat of enforcement. The City then began the process of passing a new version of the Immigration Ordinance; that new version was enacted on September 21, 2006, along with a third ordinance entitled the "Official English Ordinance."
On October 30, 2006, the plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint, challenging the amended ordinances (both the Immigration and the Registration Ordinances) and a motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. The District Court granted plaintiffs' motion in part and entered a TRO on October 31, 2006. Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 459 F.Supp.2d 332 (M.D. Pa. 2006). On November 1, 2006, the District Court entered a scheduling order setting the matter for a hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction and consolidated it with the trial on the merits.
On November 11, 2006, the District Court extended the TRO for 120 days to allow the parties to conduct limited discovery and to fully brief the issues in advance of the Consolidated Trial, which would be set in January 2007. After discovery commenced, Plaintiffs moved for a protective order to allow plaintiffs to refrain from disclosing their identities and immigration status to defendants. The motion was granted over defendants' objection. Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 239 F.R.D. 397 (M.D. Pa. 2006).
On December 28, 2006, the City amended the Immigration Ordinance again, this time by adding an "implementation and process" section. Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, on January 12, 2007, to challenge the City's additional revisions to the Immigration and the Registration Ordinances. Defendant moved to dismiss and the plaintiffs in turn moved for summary judgment. The Court consolidated those motions with the trial. Several pre-trial rulings followed regarding contested evidentiary issues. Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 241 F.R.D. 252 (M.D. Pa. 2007) and Lozano v. City of Hazleton, No. 3:06-cv-01586, 2007 WL 775589 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 11, 2007).
The Court presided over the Consolidated Trial from March 12 through March 22, 2007. During the trial, the City again amended the Immigration Ordinance. The Court determined that it had jurisdiction to address only the new amended version, not prior versions.
On July 26, 2007, the District Court (Judge Munley) issued a 206-page Decision and Verdict declaring the Immigration and the Registration Ordinances unconstitutional and permanently enjoining the City from enforcing the ordinances. Judge Munley found the ordinances were pre-empted by federal law and violated plaintiffs' due process rights. He concluded: "[t]he genius of our Constitution is that it provides rights even to those who evoke the least sympathy from the general public. In that way, all in this nation can be confident of equal justice under its laws. Hazleton, in its zeal to control the presence of a group deemed undesirable, violated the rights of such people, as well as others within the community. Since the United States Constitution protects even the disfavored, the ordinances cannot be enforced." Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 496 F.Supp.2d 477, 555 (M.D. Pa. 2007).
The City filed a notice of appeal on August 23, 2007. The notice was amended the next day. Plaintiffs moved for an award of attorneys' fees and costs. The District Court agreed to reserve ruling on the fee application pending defendant's appeal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion a full two years after hearing oral argument, on September 9, 2010. The court found that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the Immigration Ordinance's private cause of action, but did have standing to challenge the housing provisions of the Immigration and the Registration Ordinances. On the merits, the court found that the Act was preempted by federal law because the power "to effectively prohibit residency based on immigration status that is so clearly within the exclusive domain of the federal government."
Following the appellate court's ruling, the City petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. On July 8, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert, vacated the judgment, and ordered the case remanded for further consideration in light of Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, IM-AZ-0013
. City of Hazleton, Pa. v. Lozano, 131 S. Ct. 2958 (2011).
Following remand, the Third Circuit ordered further briefing in light of the Supreme Court's decision. On July 26, 2013, the Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the District Court's order, granted six years earlier to the day. The Third Circuit, in an opinion written by Chief Judge Theodore McKee, again concluded that both the employment and housing provisions of the Hazleton ordinances were preempted by federal immigration law, and again affirmed the portion of the District Court's order enjoining enforcement of those provisions. Lozano v. City of Hazleton, 724 F.3d 297 (3d Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S. Ct. 1491 (2014).
On remand to the District Court, the parties litigated the issue of plaintiffs' attorneys' fees. The parties were ordered to participate in a settlement conference with a magistrate judge. As of February 22, 2015, the docket was silent as to the outcome of the fees motion. Elizabeth Daligga - 07/12/2012
Dan Whitman - 02/22/2015