Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arizona immigration law's legal costs could top $1 million

by Ginger Rough
September 2, 2010 03:15 PM
The Arizona Republic

Defending the state against lawsuits related to Senate Bill 1070 has cost more than $440,000 to date, and outstanding bills could easily add up to an excess of $1 million or more.

Gov. Jan Brewer's office on Thursday released to The Republic the latest round of invoices from its outside legal counsel, Phoenix law firm Snell & Wilmer.

The bills, however, only cover work and charges incurred through the end of June, which doesn't include any costs related to the U.S. Department of Justice's suit, which was filed in July. The only three hearings in the cases so far also were held that month.

That means bills for July and August could be on par with, or even higher, than those already received, the Governor's Office said.

Last week, Brewer's legal team filed an argument explaining why she believes the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit should allow all of Arizona's new immigration law to go into effect. The governor is asking the appeals court to overturn the preliminary injunction put in place in late July by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton.

That injunction halted four parts of Senate Bill 1070, and oral arguments on the case are expected to be heard by the 9th Circuit the first week of November.

"The fees incurred have been, and will continue to be, sizeable as the governor's counsel responds to the massive number of filings in these lawsuits and prepares her filings before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals," Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said in an e-mail Thursday.

When asked if the office had any indication of cost totals for the July and August billings, Senseman said, "There's really no way of telling."

The state's tough new immigration law, portions of which took effect July 29, had been the subject of seven federal suits. One has been thrown out; another has been partially dismissed.

According to the Governor's Office, more than 219 attorneys have participated in the lawsuits, and there have been more than 900 legal filings containing more than 12,160 pages of
legal briefings related to the cases.

Money to pay for the state's legal costs is coming from Brewer's legal defense fund . So far she has authorized two expenditures: one for just over $77,000 to cover bills received for work in the last 11 days of May, and the second for $363,520.25 to cover the June legal charges.

The fund has received more than $3.6 million in donations to date, from 41,478 donors all across the country. A single donation in the amount of $1.5 million was received in the last two weeks from Timothy Mellon of Laramie, Wyo., Brewer's office said.

Public records show that Mellon is heir to a family banking fortune and is the chairman of Pan Am Systems, a privately-owned shipping and freight company based out of New Hampshire.

Mellon could not immediately be reached for comment.

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