Wednesday, April 13, 2011


In a split decision from a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the of Arizona's Federal Judge Susan Bolton has been upheld in the case of the United States v. Arizona, the SB1070 case. The panel produced three written opinions, the first by Judge Richard Paez, a concurring opinion by Judge John T. Noonan, and a dissent from Judge Carlos T. Bea.

Judge Richard Paez

Judge Richard Paez, previously served on the Federal Bench in Los Angeles. Paez began his career representing poor people as a staff attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance and then for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. Paez was the executive director for litigation for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles before Governor Jerry Brown elevated him to the municipal bench in L.A.

Judge John T. Noonan

Judge John T. Noonan worked as Special Staff to the United States National Security Council, assisting National Security Advisor Robert Cutler from 1954-1955. He then entered private practice, working for the Boston law firm of Herrick Smith Donald Farley & Ketchum from 1955 until 1960. After leaving private practice Noonan became a professor of law first at Notre Dame then at the University of California at Berkeley. He was appointed to the Court of Appeals to fill a newly created seat by President Reagan.

Judge Carlos T. Bea

Judge Carlos T. Bea was born in Spain and emigrated with his parents to Cuba in 1939. He was a member of the Cuban basketball team in the Helsinki Olympics in the summer of 1952. He then emigrated to the United States and became a naturalized citizen in 1959. He began a private practice of law in 1958. In 1990 he became a trial judge on the San Francisco Superior Court. He was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in 2003.

These opinions provide more ideas to digest than can be reasonably commented on in one blog posting. I will divide the details into several postings. The bottom line is that by a 2 to 1 margin Judge Bolton has been sustained by the Court of Appeals.

Judge Paez began his discussion with the Supremacy Clause, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2, as the source of the federal preemption doctrine. Citing Wyeth v. Levine, 129 S. Ct. 1187, 1194-95 (2009), he framed the arguments by which state law must yield to federal law. This analysis:

[M]ust be guided by two cornerstones of [theSupreme Court’s] pre-emption jurisprudence. First, the purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone in every pre-emption case. . . . Second, [i]n all preemption cases, and particularly in those in which Congress has legislated . . . in a field which the States have traditionally occupied,  . . .[courts] start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.
Where Congress has not explicitly provided for preemption state law must give way in two specific areas. First is when Congress intends to occupy the field. The second is where Congress has not occupied the field, state law is naturally preempted to the extent of any conflict with a federal statute. Paez writes that "Conflict preemption, in turn, has two forms: impossibility and obstacle preemption. Impossibility preemption exists where it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal law.

Obstacle preemption exists where, under the circumstances of a particular case, the challenged state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.

To determine whether obstacle preemption exists, the Supreme Court has that instructed that the federal judiciary employ its judgment, to be informed by examining the federal statute as a whole and identifying its purpose and intended effects.

The Salerno Rule & Arizona's Mistake

The facial challenge standard rule established in United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739 (1987) is what I have been referring to as the inconceivable standard. Thus, under Salerno, “the challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid. Paez takes Arizona's sophistry to task for its approach to the Salerno Rule.
We stress that the question before us is not, as Arizona has portrayed, whether state and local law enforcement officials can apply the statute in a constitutional way. Arizona’s framing of the Salerno issue assumes that S.B. 1070 is not preempted on its face, and then points out allegedly permissible applications of it. This formulation misses the point: there can be no constitutional application of a statute that, on its face, conflicts with Congressional intent and therefore is preempted by the Supremacy Clause.(emphasis added)
The Court of Appeals concluded that the relevant provisions of S.B. 1070 facially conflict with Congressional intent as expressed in provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act [INA]. If that were not the case the Court of Appeals would have next considered whether the statute could be applied in a constitutional manner.

Judge Paez then employs a section by section analysis of those parts of Arizona SB1070 . This is where the next blog posting on this topic will begin.

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