Unreasonable Seizure and Equal Protection (Mora):
In August 2009, the ACLU of Arizona filed the first case that challenged the practices of Sheriff Arpaio in conducting workplace raids. These raids have not resulted in any convictions of employers, and are directed at the workers solely because of their status and employment, and not based on allegations of crimes against others. Nineteen-year-old Julio and his 66-year-old father Julian were not violating any laws when forcibly stopped while driving in a public roadway on the way to Julian's workplace (H.M.I). Julio is a citizen and Julian a 30-year-old legal resident of Arizona. Their stop led to a harrowing three hour armed detention, without the ability to contact anyone and humiliating denials of adequate bathroom access while handcuffed. After enduring these harms and illegalities, a brief questioning demonstrated that there was no reason to have detained them. After completing discovery, cross motions for partial Summary Judgment were filed by the parties. In May 2011, the Court ruled for the Moras on key aspects of their submission. This important decision found that even at this stage of the proceeding, and without the need for a trial, these Plaintiffs had demonstrated that their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures was violated by the unjustified forceful stop of their car and also by their involuntary removal and cuffing and being arrested without cause by being taken onto the H.M. I. property. The ruling for Plaintiffs resulted in serious negotiations by Defendants and an agreed payment of $200,000 to compensate the Plaintiffs and for some costs and attorneys fees. This was an important win for the Moras and their quality of life, and as a precedent that exposed the abusive and illegal policies adopted by Sheriff Arpaio in conducting workplace raids.
Preemption, Due Process and Employer Sanctions (Valle Del Sol):
After a Phoenix federal court issued a decision that would allow Arizona officials to begin enforcement of the "Legal Arizona Workers Act" on March 1, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) moved forward with an appeal to suspend the Act. The Arizona law requires employers to check the eligibility of all potential workers against E-Verify, which is presently a voluntary, experimental and temporary federal database program with a high error rate. The ACLU is asserting that the new law conflicts with this and is preempted by federal law and violates the constitutional right to due process by failing to provide any meaningful opportunity to challenge its enforcement. The case was argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 12, 2008, and in September, the Circuit Court upheld the trial court. Plaintiffs were granted review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its decision on May 26, 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed this result. The Court found that while issues concerning the employment of immigrants are generally left for federal regulation and enforcement, a specific exception in the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) for licensing schemes was determined to be broad enough to cover the Arizona decision to use the loss of business licenses as a sanction against employers if found to hire undocumented persons. With this result based on specific federal statutory language, it should not impact a future Supreme Court determination on SB 1070. Read the Complaint.
Unreasonable Seizure (Arizona v. Johnson):
In November 2009, the ACLU of Arizona filed an amicus brief in a criminal appeal on behalf of Mr. Johnson, who was a passenger in a car stopped on the highway. Mr. Johnson was questioned about matters unrelated to the stop and without any individual suspicion of criminal activity. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the 4th Amendment does not prohibit such questioning and the information derived is not “unreasonably seized;” this practice of stopping cars for the purpose of questioning passengers is the M.O. of Sheriff Arpaio during his immigration sweeps. Our brief sought review by the Arizona Supreme Court on the grounds that the privacy provisions in the Arizona Constitution provide greater protections than the 4th Amendment. In a close 3-2 vote on February 4th the Supreme Court declined the case (Justices Berch and Bales favored review).
In September 2009, the ACLU of Arizona filed a federal lawsuit challenging the denial by private prison company "CCA" of receipt of books and publications from Prison Legal News; CCA runs the large "Saguaro" facility in Eloy with contract prisoners from Hawaii and Washington. Prison Legal News is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in prisons and jails, and has over 7,000 subscribers, mostly prisoners. Sandy Rosen of Rosen, Galvan & Bien was the lead attorney. After a day long session with the Magistrate, attorneys for the parties including Dan Pochoda, and Paul Wright from PLN, a settlement was reached. CCA agreed to remove PLN from the "not approved" list for books and publications and that PLN would be notified if any specific material was censored with the reasons and chance to respond. Read the Complaint and Settlement Agreement.
In August 2009, the ACLU of Arizona filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim woman awaiting trial while confined in Maricopa County. The complaint sets out the actions by Arpaio and Maricopa County that unreasonably interfere with the woman's religious beliefs and that can be accommodated in the jail setting. The denials include not providing the religious Halal diet, not permitting the Hijab head scarf, and inadequate access to religious books. After we filed for a restraining order, defendants agreed to accommodate the woman's need to fast in the daylight hours during Ramadan and certain other days. After transfer to an ADOC facility thereby mooting the request for injunctive relief, the damages aspect of the case was settled by negotiation.
In February 2008, the ACLU of Arizona and the ACLU Voting Rights Project filed a lawsuit seeking to restore the voting rights of former felons in Arizona. At issue is the state's rights restoration process for former felons. Under current state law, everyone who commits a felony is stripped of their civil rights. They can't restore those civil rights – even after being released from prison – unless they've paid all of their financial obligations to the state and their victims, including docket and filing fees, court costs, restitution, and costs of incarceration, as well as interest on these debts. The ACLU argued in its complaint that denying the right to vote based on one's failure or inability to pay is the modern equivalent of a poll tax and violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The lawsuit asked that the right to vote not be limited by a person's financial ability, but does not seek to eliminate a defendant's obligation to pay. In March 2008, the District Court dismissed the complaint and we submitted a brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that this was erroneous. Plaintiffs' amended complaint was dismissed by the district court on November 6, 2008. On May 27, 2010 the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court decision. Read the Amended Complaint.
On June 28, 2007, the ACLU of Arizona filed a law suit on behalf of Dan Frazier. Mr. Frazier is the operator of a website in Flagstaff that sells items with political messages including T-shirts that prominently state "BUSH LIED - THEY DIED" with the names of soldiers killed in Iraq in small print in the background. With Frazier clearly as the target the 2007 Arizona legislature unanimously passed SB 1014. This bill made it a crime for a person to use the names of deceased soldiers, without family permission, and allowed family members of deceased soldiers a private right of action against the seller. A federal court judge issued a preliminary injunction on September 27, 2007, halting the enforcement of this statute. In a strongly worded opinion, the judge accepted the ACLU position that the anti-war message, including the names of soldiers killed in Iraq, was clearly "political speech" on a matter of great public concern. In August 2008 Judge Neil Wake granted Frazier's motion for permanent relief and awarded attorney fees to Plaintiff's counsel in a successful end to the litigation. Red the Complaint and Final Judgment.
In June 2004, the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit in federal court that challenged Arizona's sex offender classification scheme. The system classifies sex offenders into Level I, II, or III depending on law enforcement's evaluation of nineteen subjective criteria which allegedly are factors indicative of the offender's likelihood to re-offend. Unlike many other states, Arizona does not allow the sex offender any opportunity to participate in this process, discover the information underlying the classification, or challenge/appeal the classification. As demonstrated by our client's case, the classification level can even be changed (and raised) years after the conviction, even if there are no new facts, charges or investigations affecting risk. To make this system worse, a new law went into effect under which all Level II offenders are subject to the Level III notification. Thus, Level II and Level III offenders are subjected to mandatory notification to their surrounding neighborhood, schools, and employers. The flyer, which includes their exact address, must also be given to the media to be published. The case did not result in plaintiff's favor. Read the Complaint.
In August 2003, the ACLU of Arizona filed an amicus brief in support of Harold Standhart that challenged the constitutionality of the Arizona Defense of Marriage Act. ACLU-AZ argued that the U.S. Supreme Court findings in Lawrence v. Texas also entitle the right to same-sex marriage recognition from the state. Arizona Senator Mark Anderson filed to intervene in the case in July 2003, arguing against same-sex marriage. The motion to intervene was denied, and Senator Anderson was granted leave to file amicus curiae in the case. On October 8, 2003, the Arizona Court of Appeals denied our claim by stating that the fundamental right to marry "does not encompass the right to marry a same-sex partner." Read the Final Opinion.
A challenge to the Department of Corrections' implementation of a law effectively prohibiting inmates from a presence on the internet or from receiving information from the internet. The Federal Court issued a preliminary injunction against the Department of Corrections.
A lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of inmates because of overcrowded conditions, inadequate medical facilities and lack of medical staff, lack of access to the law libraries and the courts.
In the early 70's, a student had been barred from school because of length of hair. The ACLU-AZ argued that students should not be barred from school unless it could be shown that their dress disrupted the educational process. The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling and required that the high school re-admit the student, saying that the school's attempt to keep him from class was "arbitrary and unreasonable".
In one of the most famous cases in American jurisprudence, the ACLU-AZ argued before the US Supreme Court that defendants who have been arrested for felonies have a right to remain silent and to have counsel before they are interrogated. The Court agreed with the ACLU position and reversed the Miranda decision which had been affirmed by the Arizona Supreme Court. John P. Frank was our cooperating attorney.
In 1961 two teachers refused to sign a loyalty oath required of state employees by Arizona law. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the law and after being bounced back to the state courts once from the Supreme Court, the ACLU-AZ took it once again to the US Supreme Court which by a 5 to 4 decision struck down the Arizona oath as unconstitutionally vague. The oath that is administered has changed wording.