U.S. High Court Seeks Opinion On Ariz Immigration Case

US High Court Seeks Opinion On Ariz Immigration Case

By Kristina Peterson
The Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2009

Washington – The U.S. Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to comment on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's challenge to an Arizona immigration law on Monday.

At issue is whether federal immigration law prevents states from imposing their own penalties on businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

'Without immediate action by this Court, the crazy-quilt of state and local immigration statutes will continue to expand, multiplying burdens on employers and unfairness to employees,' the Chamber of Commerce argued in its brief to the high court.

The Chamber filed suit after Arizona passed a law in 2007 imposing penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants and requiring all employers to use an online verification system.

The Chamber argued that Arizona's law violates the intent of the national immigration law Congress passed in 1986. That law created a 'comprehensive scheme' prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens and prevented states from imposing civil or criminal sanctions against employers except for 'licensing and similar laws.' Congress also specified that use of the online verification system would be voluntary.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard countered in a brief to the court that the state law falls within the domain of the licensing provision. And while Congress prohibited employers nationally from requiring the use of the verification system, states still have the right to mandate its use, Goddard argued.

Both the district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the Arizona statute did not interfere with federal law.

The case is Chamber of Commerce v. Criss Candelaria, 09-115.

In other news, the court took several actions:

* Agreed to hear an appeal from Ohio Tax Commissioner Richard Levin in a dispute between in-state and out-of-state natural gas suppliers. Levin sought to dismiss a lawsuit from Commerce Energy Inc. (CMNR), a unit of Universal Energy Group, challenging several provisions in the state's tax laws that it said benefited local companies. Levin argued that federal tax law prohibits state tax disputes from being heard in federal courts, a divergence from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal's decision. The case is Levin v. Commerce Energy, Inc., 09-223.

* Denied an appeal from a group of bondholders seeking to renegotiate terms of the Delta Airlines (DAL) bankruptcy settlement. The plaintiffs held $50 million worth of municipal bonds issued by the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport to construct a terminal leased by Delta Airlines. When the airline filed for bankruptcy, it signed a settlement renegotiating its lease and changing who directly paid the bondholders.

Lower courts ruled that the plaintiffs, a minority group of the total bondholders, could not challenge the settlement after it had been approved by the majority. The Supreme Court upheld the lower courts' ruling without comment. The case is Kenton County Bondholders v. Delta Air Lines, 09-104.

* Declined to hear a challenge from the American Insurance Company and Columbia Casualty Company in a dispute over a legal matter. The disagreement arose in a larger battle over whether paper products manufacturer Asten Johnson, Inc. could force the two insurance companies to cover its damages in asbestos-related lawsuits, despite specific exemptions for asbestosis in their contracts. The case is American Insurance Company v Asten Johnson, Inc., 09-254.