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Anti-immigrant Hazelton forced to pay legal fees

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Time: 2:33 PM

Remember that anti-immigrant legislation in Hazelton PA that xenophobes here in Danbury applauded? Well, while many know that the courts ruled that Hazelton's racist piece of garbage was unconstitutional, many might know what the latest events in the case.

For one, recently the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling.
In a closely watched case with similarities to the challenges to Arizona's SB 1070 (partially enjoined by a district judge), the Third Circuit issued a 188 page opinion today. Upholding the district judge, the panel unanimously agreed that the two ordinances of Hazelton, Pennsylvania regulating immigration are pre-empted by the federal immigration scheme.

....then, the court ruled another blow to Hazelton.
Two weeks ago, a panel from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court decision to require the City of Hazleton, PA, to pay $2.4 million in legal fees to Pedro Lozano, Casa Dominicana of Hazleton Inc., Hazleton Hispanic Business Association and the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition incurred when they challenged the constitutionality of certain Hazleton ordinances which in 2007 the Third Circuit had already found to be unconstitutional.

The ordinances in question sought to fine landlords for renting to undocumented aliens, deny businesses permits for employing undocumented aliens, and authorized the town to investigate the legal status of an employee or tenant upon the request of any citizen, business, or organization. Hazleton’s misguided efforts sought to curb an influx of potentially undocumented aliens, attributing an increase in crime and use of the town’s public services to those individuals. The Circuit Court had found that the town could not enact such ordinances as they were pre-empted by federal law.

In its most recent decision, the Third Circuit panel held that the town’s insurer was only required to cover decisions which awarded monetary damages, but not the $2.4 million in plaintiffs’ legal fees. In fact, plaintiffs were not seeking any monetary damages, and the insurer successfully argued that, according to definitions in the town’s insurance policy, the company should not be liable for legal fees. Hazleton’s city solicitor says the town plans to seek review of this decision by the US Supreme Court. The town is already in the process of petitioning the Supreme Court to review the decision that the ordinances are unconstitutional.

Two lessons can be learned from this case: (1) do not attempt to enact laws in the immigration space as they are pre-empted by existing federal law, and (2) review your municipality’s insurance policy to ensure that legal fees are covered in the event of this type of, or indeed any, lawsuit.

Food for thought as immigrant rights activists continue to keep a close eye on the anti-immigrant activities of Mayor Boughton and his bigoted ilk...

posted by ctblogger at 2:33 PM | Permalink|

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On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.

The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.

Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.

Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.

CLICK HERE TO READ/DOWNLOAD MAYOR BOUGHTON'S DEPOSITION

CLICK HERE TO READ/DOWNLOAD MIKE McLACHLAN (then MAYOR CHIEF OF STAFF) DEPOSITION

Danbury Area Coalition for the Rights of Immigrants v.
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
3:06-cv-01992-RNC ( D. Conn. )

(02.25.08) Court docket

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Barrera v. Boughton, No. 07-01436
(D. Conn. filed Sept. 26, 2007)

(02.25.08) Court Docket

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Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendants' Motion to Dismiss State Law Claims

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