A group representing Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever in the legal battles over SB 1070 is seeking $50,000-$60,000 in donations to file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.
In fundraising letters sent out as recently as Friday, the director of Border Sheriffs, Christopher Rants, says if they don't get more donations, SB 1070 will remain blocked by the courts.
"If we do not raise the remaining $31,000 we need to file Sheriff Dever's brief, the 9th Circuit Court decision will stand," Rants said in an email Friday.
But the sheriff isn't a party in the lawsuit - it's the Governor's Office, led by private attorney Paul Clement, that is trying to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case and overturn an April decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dever just wants to submit an amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," brief saying why the high court should take the case from his on-the-border view.
"The Gov has one perspective," Rants said in an email to the Star. "And while their interests are aligned, the sheriff's perspective is unique. The court ought to hear from law enforcement on this case."
Border Sheriffs was founded by the Iowa-based Legacy Foundation last year to raise money for the defense of Arizona's tough immigration law on behalf of Dever and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. So far, Rants said in Friday's email, the group has raised $29,000.
Initially, the group raised money on the argument that Arizona's sheriffs were being sued personally by the ACLU over SB 1070 and faced personal financial jeopardy. But that wasn't true - Arizona's sheriffs and county attorneys were named in their official roles.
Still, Dever has approval from Cochise County for attorney Brian Bergin of the Scottsdale-based Rose Law Group to represent him, as long as the fees are paid with donations. Pinal County Attorney James Walsh declined Babeu's request to have an outside attorney.
brewer welcomes help
This month, the Governor's Office appealed the 9th-circuit decision sustaining U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's injunction against key parts of SB 1070. Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general, is being paid $150,000 to make the governor's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and file any replies necessary.
SB 1070 was designed to give state and local police a greater role in arresting illegal immigrants. It requires officers to question those whom they already have stopped if there is reason to believe the person is in this country illegally. It also makes it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work in Arizona.
In an Aug. 7 fundraising letter, Rants wrote: "Our attorney at the Rose Law Group tells me Governor Jan Brewer's team has invited Sheriff Dever and the Legacy Foundation to file a brief in support of Arizona's petition to have our case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court."
But that's not quite right, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said.
"Technically speaking, I'm not sure we've invited any groups to assist," Benson said. However he added, "This is a group whose members are on the front lines of the issue, so certainly we welcome their help."
An amicus brief is a filing by an outside party about a case under consideration, and it may include information not in previous appeals. Such briefs can have an impact, said Nick Dranias, an attorney who heads the Goldwater Institute's Center for Constitutional Government and has filed many such briefs.
"I think of the amicus brief as the op-ed of legal briefings," Dranias said.
Dever said he wants to tell the court how SB 1070 can help his border county.
"We're trying to drive home the importance and significance of this law relieving pressure on the border here by eliminating sanctuary policies in this state," he said.
UA prof: $50,000 may be high
Bergin already filed an amicus brief at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Dever's behalf. It was one of about 60 filed in the case by elected officials, cities and groups such as the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation. But attorney Bergin said in an email this brief will be different because it is to convince the Supreme Court to take the case.
"As such, we are laying out the Sheriff's unique perspective on why the Court needs to speak and resolve many of the ongoing, national controversies involving several states' efforts to assist the federal government in enforcing immigration law," Bergin said.
A brief to the Supreme Court "requires an enormous amount of research, writing and editing," he said.
Asked about the Border Sheriffs effort, former UA Law School Dean Toni Massaro said via email that "many amicus briefs are done pro bono" - that is, for free by groups or lawyers who support the cause.
"Fifty thousand dollars does sound high for a brief such as the one you describe, if it would simply outline the evidence the sheriffs claim to have about the impact on the border," said Massaro, who holds the Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law at the UA. "If they already have compiled this evidence, putting together a brief that describes the evidence would be fairly straightforward.
"Assuring the accuracy of the evidence, however, may be more involved and thus more expensive," she added.
On StarNet: Read Tim Steller's blog, Señor Reporter, at go.azstarnet.com/senorreporter
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 520-807-8427 or email@example.com