2014

Bickel & Brewer Storefront Comments on the U.S. Supreme Court's Decision to Deny Review of Decision Finding Farmers Branch, Texas, Immigration Ordinance Unconstitutional

DALLAS, March 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Bickel & Brewer Storefront commented today on the decision of the United States Supreme Court to deny certiorari of an appeal by the City of Farmers Branch, Texas, relating to the city's unconstitutional immigration ordinance. Today's decision by the High Court marks the end of a successful seven-year campaign by the Storefront to challenge multiple versions of the city's immigration ordinance – bringing to a close a case that captured national headlines.

The court made the announcement following a conference session held on Friday, February 28. The Storefront, the community-service affiliate of the Bickel & Brewer law firm, successfully opposed several versions of the ordinance since 2006.

"Our hope is that the city will close this unfortunate chapter in its history and begin to embrace the changing demographics of the community – as part of a more inclusive and dynamic future," says William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer Storefront and counsel for plaintiffs, the Villas at Parkside, Lakeview at Parkside, Chateau de Ville, and Farmers Branch resident Mary Smith. "We appreciate our clients and those in the community who supported our efforts, and hope that these past years of litigation are instructive to communities and courts around the nation."

Brewer continued, "This case should play a role in the national debate regarding attempts by local governments to regulate immigration."

The city appealed an en banc opinion issued on July 22, 2013, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that affirmed a trial court decision striking down Ordinance 2952, the city's third attempt at the immigration ordinance.

The ordinance would have required renters in Farmers Branch to register their presence with the city and prove that they were legal residents in order to retain an occupancy license. The ordinance came under fire for being unconstitutional, and discriminating against the Latino community. The city has spent an estimated $7 million in legal fees pursing the measures.

The courts repeatedly agreed with the Storefront's central argument that the ordinances are preempted by federal law and unconstitutional because they attempted to regulate immigration, which can only be performed by the federal government.

In the Fifth Circuit en banc opinion issued on July 22, 2013, Judge Stephen Higginson wrote, "The Ordinance not only criminalizes occupancy of a rented apartment or single-family residence, but puts local officials in the impermissible position of arresting and detaining persons based on their immigration status without federal direction and supervision."

The City of Farmers Branch requested an en banc rehearing in April 2012, and arguments were heard before the full court in September 2012.

The en banc decision came more than a year after a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit affirmed the same lower court ruling. In an opinion filed on March 21, 2012, Judge Thomas Reavley wrote, "We conclude that the ordinance's sole purpose is not to regulate housing but to exclude undocumented aliens, specifically Latinos, from the City of Farmers Branch and that it is an impermissible regulation of immigration."

In March 2010, United States District Judge Jane Boyle ruled that Ordinance 2952 was unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction barring the enforcement of the ordinance. Ordinance 2903, the predecessor to Ordinance 2952, was previously ruled unconstitutional by United States District Court Judge Sam Lindsay.

In addition to the federal court actions alleging the ordinance was unconstitutional, the Storefront pursued state court actions alleging that the city violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. The Storefront also helped lead a community awareness campaign about the ordinance.

"We hope the Farmers Branch experience will dissuade other communities throughout the nation from considering similar unconstitutional measures," says Bickel & Brewer Storefront partner James S. Renard.

The Storefront also won a landmark victory against Farmers Branch in August 2012, when United States District Court Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled that the city violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by using an at-large voting system to elect its City Council. The victory resulted in the creation of five single-member districts, including one district with a Latino majority.

On May 12, 2013, Latina candidate Ana Reyes was elected to the Farmers Branch City Council by a decisive margin. In July, the City Council also voted not to appeal the voting rights decision.

Joining Brewer and Renard in representing plaintiffs were Bickel & Brewer partner C. Dunham Biles and associate Jack Ternan.

About Bickel & Brewer Storefront:
The Bickel & Brewer Storefront is the community-service affiliate of the Bickel & Brewer law firm. Founded in 1995, the Bickel & Brewer Storefront tackles cases with broad community impact, providing legal assistance to a wide range of individuals, businesses and community entities in need. Visit Bickel & Brewer and the Storefront at www.bickelbrewer.com.

SOURCE Bickel & Brewer Storefront



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