On November 21, 2006, a coalition of immigration rights groups, Arizona state representatives, Arizona taxpayers, and a group of immigrant criminal defendants filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for Arizona, challenging enforcement of the “Maricopa Migrant Conspiracy Policy” by the Maricopa County Sheriff and other County officials and officers.
The policy allegedly consisted of arresting and prosecuting non-smuggler aliens for conspiring to transport themselves across the border in violation of a state “anti-coyote” law, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2319, which made it a felony to smuggle undocumented immigrants for money. The plaintiffs alleged that instead of going after the professional smugglers (“coyotes”), local law enforcement targeted aliens who paid others to guide them across the border into Arizona and charged them under a criminal conspiracy theory. Specifically, the complaint asserted that the practice was preempted by federal immigration law and violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief and certification of a class consisting of all individuals arrested and prosecuted for conspiring to transport themselves, and themselves only, in violation of Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2319. Attorneys for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the LULAC National Legal Advisor, and private counsel represented the plaintiffs.
The defendants moved to dismiss the case on standing and abstention grounds. The defendants argued that the federal court should not hear the case as there were already state criminal cases underway in which plaintiffs’ challenges could be made.
Senior Judge Robert C. Bloomfield granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Judge Bloomfield decided that abstention in deference to the state courts may be required, writing that Younger abstention is appropriate when (1) there are ongoing state judicial proceedings; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings provide the plaintiff with an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims.
Judge Bloomfield gave the plaintiffs the opportunity to write a brief addressing the applicability of the preemption test in response. Specifically, the court was interested in deciding if the second prong of the test in De Canas v. Bica, 424 U.S. 351, 354 (1976) was applicable. De Canas held that federal preemption may be applicable to state law or policy that does not regulate immigration if Congress intended to “occupy the field” of the subject matter the state had attempted to regulate.
The plaintiffs’ request for class certification was denied without prejudice. 2007 WL 2775134 (D. Ariz. Sept. 21, 2007).
The plaintiffs filed a supplemental brief and then amended their complaint on October 12, 2007. The amended complaint asserted that the Maricopa Migrant Conspiracy Policy is preempted because the Immigration and Nationality Act fully occupies the field of regulating the transportation of immigrants, and therefore the the local regulation is duplicating and thus intruding on a federal scheme. This conflict intrudes on federal laws and policies which allow application for lawful status despite having entered without inspection.
On January 12, 2009, Judge Broomfield granted defendants’ motion to dismiss in its entirety, holding that all of the elements for Younger abstention were present: (1) state proceedings were underway before the commencement of this federal action, (2) the parties’ interests are sufficiently intertwined with parties in state court, (3) plaintiffs’ preemption argument is unavailing, and (4) there is unquestionable interference with the ongoing state proceeding. 594 F.Supp.2d 1104 (D. Ariz. 2009).
The plaintiffs petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the order of dismissal and the judgment. On February 9, 2009, the Ninth Circuit (Hon. Judge Alex Kozinski, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, and Judge Sandra S. Ikuta) granted the plaintiffs' petition.
On July 12, 2010, the Ninth Circuit issued a memorandum, finding that the Younger doctrine prohibited the district court from asserting jurisdiction over the national Mexican plaintiffs, and those claims had been properly dismissed. The Ninth Circuit held, however, that the claims of the organizations and taxpayers were sufficiently unrelated to the state claims that the court had jurisdiction. It remanded the case to the district court to determine if the remaining plaintiffs had standing to pursue their claims. 386 F. App'x 726 (9th Cir. 2010).
In response to the remand to the district court, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case due to lack of standing or lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiffs responded to the motion on Nov. 22, 2010.
On April 11, 2011, Judge Broomfield determined that, as it had been three and a half years since the complaint was originally filed, the case may be moot. Judge Broomfield requested that the parties file supplemental briefs to address this question. As a result of this briefing, Judge Broomfield dismissed the claims of League of United Latin American Citizens and individual Steve Gallardo.
The remaining plaintiffs and defendants proceeded with discovery. In October of 2012, the plaintiffs filed a second motion to certify class and a motion for summary judgment. The defendants also filed a motion for summary judgment.
On September 27, 2013, Judge Broomfield issued several orders. He denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. He granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The class was defined as “All individuals who pay taxes to Maricopa County and object to the use of county tax revenues to stop, detain, arrest, incarcerate, prosecute, or penalize individuals for conspiring to transport themselves, and themselves only, in violation of Ariz. Rev. State § 13-2319.”
He granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as to their claim of federal preemption. Judge Broomfield dismissed with prejudice the plaintiffs claims unlawful search and seizure, denial of due process, as well as the pendent state claim.
Finally, Judge Broomfield held that the plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that federal law preempts and renders invalid the Maricopa County Migrant Policy and permanently enjoined Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Montgomery and their agents, employees, successors in office, and all other persons who are in active concert or participation with the Maricopa Migrant Conspiracy Policy from implementing the Maricopa migrant Conspiracy Policy including detaining, arresting, and prosecuting persons for conspiring to transport themselves, and no one else. This was followed on October 4, 2013 by a clerk’s judgment stating that the plaintiffs were entitled to the above declarations.
On October 25, 2013, the defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit against the district court’s order on the motion for summary judgment, as well as the order on motion to certify class. On November 4, 2013, the plaintiffs cross-appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding the Orders on September 27, 2013 and October 4, 2013. The parties then continued to litigate regarding attorney’s fees.
On August 22, 2014, the parties advised the court that they would be dismissing this action upon defendants’ formal execution of the settlement agreement. On September 11, 2014, the plaintiffs withdrew their motion for attorney's fees, stating that the parties settled plaintiffs’ claim for attorney’s fees and non-taxable costs outside of court. As of October 21, 2014, the defendants still had not provided such a stipulation of dismissal. On that date, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mandate that the parties submit a stipulation to voluntarily dismiss this action in its entirety.
The plaintiffs filed a statement that included the settlement agreement on November 4, 2014 and the defendants submitted notice of agreement. The agreement states that the injunction provided by the court will remain permanently in effect, and the defendants agree to pay $675,000 for attorney's fees and costs.
The case is closed. Dan Dalton - 10/26/2007
Frances Hollander - 04/02/2016