SB 1070 has its day in Supreme Court

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SB 1070 has its day in Supreme Court

CREATED Apr 25, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

Washington, DC (KGUN9-TV) - The U.S. Supreme Court may be on it's way to validating key parts of SB 1070--Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law.

The justices heard arguments on the issue Wednesday in Washington.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the case immediately.  We'll probably have to wait until June to hear what the Justices decide.
But court watchers often try to guess the ruling based on the questions the Justices ask in the hearings; and to them those questions make it seem like conservative, and liberal justices are leaning towards okaying key parts of SB 1070.

After her day in court---in the nation's highest court, Governor Jan Brewer was feeling good about a win.  "I feel very confident as I walked out of there that we will get a favorable ruling in late June."
Governor Brewer based her optimism in part on the impression the Justices left with their questions---like this one: "Why was the Federal Government not wanting to enforce the law.  I thought that was very striking.  Why don't they want to enforce the Federal law?"
The Governor is quoting Chief Justice John Roberts who said something often heard from 1070 backers:
He said, "It seems to me the federal government just doesn't want to know who's here illegally or not."

But immigration attorney John Messing has a warning for those who think they've won a case before they see the formal opinions: "I don't think you can predict confidently, anything from an oral argument.  You can get a sense of where the judges are at that moment but that moment comes and goes and new moments appear."

Messing says don't mistake it for opinion when Justices ask what seem like hostile, or friendly questions.
Court watchers seemed to put a lot of weight on it when Justice Sonia Sotomayor, usually classed as a court liberal listened to the Federal case and said to the Federal attorney, "You can see it's not selling very well. Why don't you try to come up with something else?"

Messing says that's Justice Sotomayor's way of making the attorney's pose useful arguments. "I think what she was signaling counsel was whatever he was saying was not helping her in her decision making process. That's all."

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith  asked: "What can we take away from this? Is there anything other than, wait 'til the ruling?"

Messing: I think that my sense of it is, there are divisions that seem to have appeared with Justice Scalia taking a position seemingly that Arizona had free rein to do what it wanted."
But Messing thinks the eight justices on this case (Justice Kagan sat out the arguments because she was a lawyer in the Obama administration when it first sued to overturn SB 1070) may have such differing opinions, they may split on so many issues related to 1070 that they may issue rulings that will leave Federal and state authorities wondering exactly how to implement the law.

It's important to remember because the Supreme Court is considering whether lower courts should have imposed an injunction to stop 1070, the court is really ruling on whether that injunction should stand.

That means the Supreme Court does not have the last word here.
If it lifts the injunction the law could go into effect while the lower courts hash out whether the law is constitutional though the Supreme Court ruling will affect the lower court case.