On July 22, Judge Susan Bolton of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix heard arguments in two of the most highly publicized challenges to Arizona Senate Bill 1070: (1) the lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights groups and labor unions; and (2) the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The plaintiffs in both seek to enjoin SB 1070 from taking effect on July 29, 2010.

Judge Bolton does not intend to enjoin SB 1070 in its entirety. Stating that she considers SB 1070 to be an “enactment,” combining new laws and amending existing laws, rather than a “statute,” Bolton indicated she was considering whether to block all or parts of certain key provisions of SB 1070 and steered attorneys toward the more questionable portions of those provisions.

Judge Bolton voiced concerns regarding portions of SB 1070, including a provision that allows law enforcement officers to make warrantless arrests of people suspected of committing offenses that make them “removable from the United States.” At the hearing, Judge Bolton asked: “How can a police officer make a determination that a person has committed a removable offense when that decision can only be made by a federal judge?”

Attorneys for the DOJ argued that the provisions of SB 1070 are pre-empted by federal law. The agency’s lawsuit alleges that SB 1070 “will conflict and undermine the federal government’s care balance of immigration-enforcement priorities and objectives.”

Judge Bolton did not make any rulings at the hearings and has not said when she will issue a ruling. With the statute set to take effect in days, it is anticipated that she will rule quickly. Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor the legal developments surrounding SB 1070.