May 26, 2011 in Nation/World, News

Supreme Court sustains Ariz. employer sanctions law

Associated Press
Other decisions today
Speedy Trials: The high court says the time used to deal with pretrial motions cannot be used to automatically extend the required deadline for a suspect’s speedy trial. The court refused to grant the government’s request to reinstate Jason Louis Tinklenberg’s conviction of gun possession by a felon and possession of material used to manufacture methamphetamine. The Speedy Trial Act says a defendant’s trial should begin within 70 days of his indictment or his initial appearance before a judicial officer. The high court ruled that the time used to dispense with pretrial motions cannot be counted toward the Speedy Trial deadline, upholding the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to throw out Tinklenberg’s conviction.

Cop killer conviction: The court overturned the conviction of a man who fatally shot a police officer in Florida in 1998. The high court said the lower court should reconsider the conviction of Charles Fowler, who was given life in prison for the shooting death of officer Todd Horner. Fowler was convicted under a federal law that bans people from trying to keep U.S. officials from being informed about a potential federal crime. Horner was killed when he approached a group of men who were planning a bank robbery. Fowler’s lawyers said prosecutors never proved Horner would have alerted federal authorities to a potential federal crime.

Child abuse: The court threw out a lower court ruling that says authorities need warrants to talk to potential victims of sex abuse at school. But the court didn’t say whether it thinks the lower court was wrong. The high court tossed the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for other reasons. Justices declined to comment on the constitutionality of a child social worker and police officer interviewing a child in school without a warrant. Justice Elena Kagan said the girl whose mother sued over her interview at school is no longer a child and wouldn’t have any more involvement with child social workers, so the case is moot. The justices say that makes the appeals court decision disapproving of the authorities’ action also moot.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court has sustained Arizona’s law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.

By a 5-3 vote, the court said today that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.

The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Thursday’s decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general

Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.

Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said.

Business interests and civil liberties groups challenged the law, backed by the Obama administration.

The measure was signed into law in 2007 by Democrat Janet Napolitano, then the governor of Arizona and now the administration’s Homeland Security secretary.

The employer sanctions law has been only infrequently used. It was intended to diminish Arizona’s role as the nation’s hub for immigrant smuggling by requiring employers to verify the eligibility of new workers through a federal database. Employers found to have violated the law can have their business licenses suspended or revoked.

Lower courts, including the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, previously upheld the law.

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