The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Maria Archuleta, ACLU national, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666;
Alessandra Soler-Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 650-1854
Laura Rodriguez, MALDEF, (310) 956-2425;

Lawsuit Challenging Denial of Bail Rights for Immigrants Can Continue, Says Federal Court


federal court ruled that a civil rights coalition can continue to
challenge an Arizona state law that bars judges from considering bail
for criminal defendants suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
Defendants, which include Maricopa County, had asked the court to
dismiss the case but the ruling permits the litigation to proceed. The
court also granted the lawsuit class action status.

"This is a critical first step in
restoring the U.S. Constitution's guarantee that every person accused
of a crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty," said
Cecillia Wang, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties
Union Immigrants' Rights Project and lead counsel on the case. "For
hundreds of years, American courts have recognized that an accused
person cannot be jailed without a fair hearing. A person cannot be kept
in jail without a judge's decision that detention is necessary based on
the actual facts in the case."

The ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona and
the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), with
the law firm of Perkins Coie Brown & Bain, filed a lawsuit
challenging the law, Proposition 100, in April 2008 in U.S. District
Court for the District of Arizona. The law firm of Steptoe &
Johnson has since joined as counsel. The lawsuit seeks to strike down
Proposition 100, because it violates the U.S. Constitution and unjustly
denies a select group of people a fair legal process.

In late 2006, Arizona passed
Proposition 100, an unprecedented anti-immigrant law that singles out
immigrants for unfair treatment in the legal justice system by imposing
a blanket prohibition on bail. The law applies to most state felony
charges in Arizona, including relatively minor crimes such as
shoplifting and possessing a fake ID. Because of Proposition 100,
countless individuals have been jailed even though they pose no risk of
flight or danger to others, resulting in an enormous waste of Arizona
taxpayers' money and the loss of needed jail space for persons posing
actual threats.

"The judge couldn't dismiss such an
important case about a law that clearly marks a dangerous departure
from the long-established right to a fair legal process," said Kristina
Campbell, staff attorney with MALDEF. "Every individual has the right
to have his or her case decided on the merits, not because of
membership in a disfavored group."

Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of
the ACLU of Arizona, said, "Laws like Proposition 100 have no place in
a free country. Once we let the government trample the fundamental
rights of one vulnerable group, the erosion of all of our rights, not
to mention our principles, can quickly follow."

Defendants in the case include
Maricopa County, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County
Attorney Andrew Thomas and Maricopa County Superior Court Presiding
Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell.

Lawyers from the civil rights
coalition on the case include Wang, Monica M. Ramirez and Robin
Goldfaden of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Pochoda of the ACLU
of Arizona; Campbell and Cynthia Valenzuela of MALDEF; and cooperating
counsel Steven Monde and Charles Blanchard of Perkins Coie Brown &
Bain and David Bodney and Kevin Wein of Steptoe & Johnson.

The court's ruling and the civil rights coalition complaint can be found here:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666