Arizona governor bypasses state’s attorney general in defending new law
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says the state will bypass Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard in defending the state’s new immigration law against any federal lawsuit, claiming that Goddard was involved in a “curious coordination” with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the law. At the same time, Goddard has released a statement urging the Obama administration not to file a lawsuit and vowing to defend the new law if a suit is filed.
The Arizona law, SB 1070, which in part authorizes police officers to check the immigration status of any person they suspect is in the country illegally, has stirred demonstrations across the country and led to boycotts against the state by several cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. In a May 28 statement, Brewer said she had appointed a special legal team to defend the law against federal challenges. “[U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)] attorneys were advised [during a May 28 meeting] that I believe the federal government should use its legal resources to fight illegal immigration, not the state of Arizona,” Brewer said in the statement. “They were further advised that on behalf of the state of Arizona, I will ensure the immigration laws we passed are vigorously defended all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.”
However, Brewer goes on to say that, “for some inexplicable reason,” the DOJ officials met with Goddard hours before meeting with the state’s legal team, and then allowed Goddard to discuss the meeting at a press conference. “This level of coordination between the attorney general and the Obama administration is disturbingly similar to the coordination with Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords earlier this week on President Obama’s still unclear plan to deploy up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the border,” Brewer said.
Because of Goddard’s meeting with DOJ officials and his previously stated opposition to SB 1070, Brewer said she was exercising authority given to her by the state’s legislature to hire outside counsel to defend the law on behalf of the state. “The legislature gave me this authority because of its lack of confidence in the attorney general’s willingness to vigorously defend this legislation that is so critical to protecting the safety and welfare of Arizona’s citizens,” Brewer said. “Due to Attorney General Goddard’s curious coordination with the [DOJ] today and his consistent opposition to Arizona’s new immigration laws, I will direct my legal team to defend me and the state of Arizona rather than the Attorney General in the lawsuits challenging Arizona’s immigration laws.”
On the same day, however, Goddard, who also is running for Arizona governor, released a statement urging the DOJ not to file a federal lawsuit against SB 1070. Goddard’s statement claims that in the May 28 meeting, he told the federal government’s lawyers that Arizona “needs solutions, not lawsuits,” and that if the federal government decides to bring a lawsuit, “Arizona will fight back.” “The people of Arizona are deeply frustrated by the federal government’s inability to enact comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “It is time for members of Congress to stop dithering, stop playing partisan politics and address the problem.”
According to Goddard, the DOJ lawyers said no final decision has been made about filing a suit. However, five private plaintiffs have filed challenges to the immigration law, and Goddard said he would defend the state and himself in the lawsuits. In addition, Goddard said he had intervened on behalf of the state in a suit brought by a large group of plaintiffs against county officials challenging SB 1070.