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Case Name United States v. South Carolina IM-SC-0002
Docket / Court 2:11-cv-02958 ( D.S.C. )
State/Territory South Carolina
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
On October 31, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The U.S. sued the State of South Carolina under the Supremacy Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act, seeking an injunction barring the enforcement of South ... read more >
On October 31, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The U.S. sued the State of South Carolina under the Supremacy Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act, seeking an injunction barring the enforcement of South Carolina's recently passed immigration bill, Act 69.

Specifically, the federal government challenged Sections 4, 5 and 6 of Act 69. These sections required state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of any individual they stopped, detained, or arrested whenever they had a "reasonable suspicion" that the individual lacked immigration status. They further allowed law enforcement officers to arrest individuals solely for failing to carry registration documents and made it a crime to harbor or transport an undocumented immigrant or to be harbored or transported if one is an undocumented immigrant. The government also challenged Section 15, which made it a crime to create or repeatedly use a false identification.

(In passing Act 69, South Carolina joined Utah, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama in enacting immigration laws similar to Arizona's Senate Bill 1070. For the case challenging the Arizona law, see United States v. Arizona (IM-AZ-0015); for the case challenging Utah's HB 497, see Utah Coalition of La Raza v. Herbert (IM-UT-0002); for the case challenging Indiana's SEA 590, see Buquer v. City of Indianapolis (IM-IN-0002); for the case challenging Georgia's HB 87, see Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights v. Deal (IM-GA-0007); and for cases challenging Alabama's HB 56, see United States v. Alabama (IM-AL-0005), Hispanic Interest Coalition v. Bentley (IM-AL-0006), and Parsley v. Bentley (IM-AL-0007).)

After a joint hearing on motions for summary judgment by the Department of Justice and by private plaintiffs in Lowcountry Immigration Coalition v. Haley (IM-SC-0001), on December 22, 2011, United States District Judge Richard M. Gergel issued an order in large part granting both motions. United States v. South Carolina, No. 2:11-cv-02958, 2011 WL 6973241, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151549 (D.S.C. Dec. 19, 2011). The court enjoined Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Act, but declined to enjoin Section 15, as it found that the federal government had not made a clear showing it would suffer irreparable harm if the section were enforced.

The State appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which stayed the case until the Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Arizona (IM-AZ-0015), which dealt with a very similar statute in Arizona. In June 2012, the Supreme Court struck down much of the Arizona statute, but declined to facially review the "show me your papers" provision. 132 S.Ct. 2492 (2012). Shortly thereafter, the Court of Appeals issued a "limited remand" in this matter, directing the district court to decide in the first instance if its order should be adjusted in light of the Supreme Court's Arizona opinion.

On November 26, 2012, the district court left in place most of its prior preliminary injunction, against the sections of the law that aimed to criminalize unlawful presence and giving a ride or renting an apartment to an undocumented immigrant. But the district court followed the Supreme Court's lead on the "show me your papers" provision. It noted: "This litigation is only at the preliminary injunction stage, and this Court's decision to dissolve the injunction regarding these status-checking provisions does not foreclose a future as-applied challenge based upon subsequent factual and legal developments. In the course of this litigation, the parties will have the opportunity to conduct discovery regarding the actual practices and procedures associated with the implementation of Sections 6(A) and 6(C)(1), and this Court can then address these issues with the benefit of a full record."

On December 7, 2012, the State filed an interlocutory appeal of the District Court's preliminary injunction. On July 23, 3013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision.

Litigation then continued at the district court and the parties began settlement discussions. On March 4, 2015, Judge Gergel permanently enjoined the State from implementing Sections 4, 5, 6(B)(2), and 15 of South Carolina's Act 69. He further noted that the Department of Justice had agreed to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice
their remaining claims as to Sections 6 and 7 based on the State's specified interpretations of these sections.

The parties then began litigation over attorney's fees, but no further action has been taken since June 6, 2014. The case appears closed.

Christopher Schad - 11/29/2012
Gabriela Hybel - 03/27/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Immigration status
National origin discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Over/Unlawful Detention
Placement in detention facilities
Racial profiling
Border police
Undocumented immigrants - state and local regulation
National Origin/Ethnicity
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Causes of Action All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. ยงยง 1101 et seq.
Defendant(s) The State of South Carolina
Plaintiff Description The United States
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - n/a
Filing Year 2011
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing IM-SC-0001 : Lowcountry Immigration Coalition v. Haley (D.S.C.)
2:11-cv-02958-RMG (D.S.C.)
IM-SC-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/06/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-SC-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/31/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction] [ECF# 64] (840 F.Supp.2d 898) (D.S.C.)
IM-SC-0002-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/22/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Staying Case Pending the Supreme Court's Decision in United States v. Arizona] [ECF# 68] (D.S.C.)
IM-SC-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 118] (906 F.Supp.2d 463) (D.S.C.)
IM-SC-0002-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/15/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment [ECF# 153] (D.S.C.)
IM-SC-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/04/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Gergel, Richard Mark (D.S.C.)
IM-SC-0002-0002 | IM-SC-0002-0003 | IM-SC-0002-0004 | IM-SC-0002-0005 | IM-SC-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bowens, Barbara Murcier (South Carolina)
IM-SC-0002-0001 | IM-SC-0002-9000
Goldberg, Arthur Robert (District of Columbia)
IM-SC-0002-0001 | IM-SC-0002-9000
Nettles, William N (South Carolina)
IM-SC-0002-0001 | IM-SC-0002-9000
Simpson, W. Scott (District of Columbia)
IM-SC-0002-0001 | IM-SC-0002-9000
West, Tony (District of Columbia)
Defendant's Lawyers Cook, Robert Dewayne (South Carolina)
Smith, James Emory Jr. (South Carolina)
Other Lawyers Adams, Christopher W. (South Carolina)
Clark, Christopher R. (New York)
Gorniak, Carla (New York)
Keaveny, Amanda Bethea (South Carolina)
Solano, Henry L. (New York)

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