D.Ariz: Standing to Challenge Policy Re Arresting Migrants

A district court in Arizona held that several organizations and individuals have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the so-called “Maricopa Migrant Conspiracy Policy” (“MMCP”). We Are America/Somos America v. Maricopa County Bd. of Supervisors, No. 06 Civ. 2816, 2011 WL 3629353 (D. Ariz. Aug. 18, 2011). Robert C. Broomfield, a Reagan nominee, wrote the opinion.

The lawsuit was originally brought by six Mexican nationals, four community-based organizations, and five individual taxpayers. Due to a previous holding, however, only the organizations and individual taxpayers are Plaintiffs in the current lawsuit. See We Are America/Somos America v. Maricopa County Bd. of Supervisors, 594 F.Supp.2d 1104 (D. Ariz. 2009) (holding that the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the claims of the Mexican nationals).  The Defendants to the lawsuit currently include the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the Maricopa County Attorney, and the Maricopa County Sheriff.

The MMCP is a policy that allows law enforcement officers to arrest, detain, and punish non-smuggler migrants for conspiring to transport themselves through Maricopa County. The Plaintiffs contend that the MMCP is preempted by federal law; that it violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures; that it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and that it conflicts with Arizona’s human smuggling and conspiracy statutes. The Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief.

While the lawsuit has already resulted in protracted litigation, the current opinion addresses Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of standing under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).   In their motion, the Defendants mounted a facial attack against the Plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that they are too broad and general to satisfy Article III’s injury in fact requirement.

The court first addressed whether the lawsuit is moot due to the passage of time and the election of a new Maricopa County Attorney. The court concluded that the lawsuit is not moot, because the new County Attorney stated that he enforces the MMCP in the same manner that his predecessor did. The court also gave credence to the County Attorney’s statement that “this matter is not moot.”

The court next explained why it was addressing in its opinion whether the organizations have standing. The court took the time to explain this decision because it is a general rule that if a court affirms that one plaintiff or group of plaintiffs has standing, it need not address whether the other plaintiff or groups of plaintiffs have standing. See, e.g., Watt v. Energy Action Educ. Found., 454 U.S. 151, 160 (1981). However, the court explained that addressing the standing of both the organizations and the individual taxpayers would serve judicial economy, and that addressing only one group’s standing would leave the other in “legal limbo.”

The organizations claimed that they met standing requirements by alleging that “Maricopa’s challenged policy frustrates their mission and causes them to divert resources to assist migrants defendants unlawfully arrest[ed], jail[ed] and prosecute[d].” The court agreed, dismissing the Defendants’ argument that the voluntary nature of the organizations’ activities undermines their allegations of injury in fact.

Nevertheless, the court distinguished one of the organizations from the other three. The court stated that unlike the other three organizations, the primary goals of the League of United Latin American Citizens (“LULAC”) do not include providing social services to immigrants. Rather, LULAC’s primary goal is to promote the interests of Latinos in the United States. Therefore, the court concluded that, even under a relatively lenient standard of review, LULAC did not sufficiently allege injury in fact, but rather only alleged a setback to its broad interests.

The court found that the complaint sufficiently alleges that there is a connection between the organizations’ injuries and the MMCP, and that the organizations’ alleged injuries are redressable. The court ended its discussion of the organizations’ standing by rejecting the Defendants’ argument that the organizations could avoid being injured if illegal aliens complied with the law. The court responded to this argument by stating that “because the complaint alleges that the MMCP is unlawful, standing is not dependent upon plaintiffs’ ability in the future to avoid engaging in supposedly unlawful conduct.”

After concluding that three out of the four organizations have standing, the court turned to the individual taxpayers’ standing. The court noted that four of the five taxpayers allege that they pay taxes in Maricopa County and in Arizona, while one of the taxpayers only alleges that he pays taxes in Arizona. The court found this to be important because municipal taxpayers are subject to different rules of standing than are state taxpayers.

Turning to the injury in fact requirement of standing, the court stated that the municipal taxpayers allege that the MMCP is an unconstitutional expenditure of municipal funds, and that the funds are used to arrest, detain, and incarcerate illegal migrants pursuant to the MMCP. The court dismissed the Defendants’ argument that the failure to include a specific dollar amount in the complaint shows that the municipal taxpayers did not suffer an injury. The court explained that the municipal taxpayers will incur additional costs if the MMCP remains in effect, since there are incremental costs of arresting and detaining illegal migrants. Based on these facts, the court concluded that the municipal taxpayers sufficiently pled injury in fact.

The court then briefly addressed the other elements of standing, concluding that the municipal taxpayers sufficiently pled a connection between their injuries and the MMCP, and that they sufficiently alleged that their injuries are redressable.

Next, the court addressed the state taxpayer’s standing. Unlike municipal taxpayers, state taxpayers must “establish a particularized, concrete injury that is redressable by the court’s judgment.” Arakaki v. Lingle, 477 F.3d 1048, 1063 (9th Cir. 2007). The court concluded that the complaint does not allege an injury that fulfills this standard and granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint as to the state taxpayer for lack of standing.

The court concluded its opinion by dismissing two further arguments by the Defendants. First, the court dismissed the Defendants’ argument that the Plaintiffs failed to fulfill the “prudential standing” requirement, which requires courts to dismiss complaints that assert rights belonging not to the plaintiffs but to third parties. Finally, the court dismissed the Defendants’ argument that the complaint should be dismissed because it is a de facto appeal from a state court judgment. While the court acknowledged that such an appeal is forbidden, it concluded that the present action was not an appeal from a state court judgment.

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