A Clinton appointee, Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton has a reputation as a no nonsense jurist who leaves partisan considerations at the door when she takes the bench. As hearings continued yesterday in multiple lawsuits to overturn Arizona’s SB107 illegal immigrant law, she burnished that reputation as she actively challenged the U. S. Justice Department’s claims of federal preemption.
As lawyers for the Justice Department claimed that SB1070 violated the legal principle of federal preemption contained in the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and would do irreparable harm to federal immigration policy, Judge Bolton pushed back with this,
“How is there a preemption issue? I understand there may be other issues, but you’re arguing preemption. Where is the preemption if everybody who is arrested for some crime has their immigration status checked?”
In another exchange, Judge Bolton appeared to lend credence to the right of states to have some say over how they treat those who are in the country illegally when she asked,
“Why can’t Arizona be as inhospitable as they wish to people who have entered or remained in the United States? Who am I to stop the State of Arizona?”
Judge Bolton didn’t limit her fire to the Justice Department arguments. She challenged the attorney for the State as well, asking whether SB1070 would lead to persons who would normally be cited and released being held indefinitely in jail awaiting immigration checks. There were also questions from the bench about local law enforcement officers having to decide what has been the province of federal judges, namely what constitutes a “removable offense”.
The Judge also took it upon herself to go beyond the esoteric legal arguments of the case to take note of the everyday realities of illegal immigration. As reported by NPR,
“Without prodding from attorneys, the judge noted that the federal government erected signs in a wilderness area south of Phoenix that warn visitors about immigrant and drug smugglers passing through public lands. She said the stash houses where smugglers hide immigrants from Mexico before bringing them into the country’s interior have become a fixture on the news in Arizona.
‘You can barely go a day without a location being found in Phoenix where there are numerous people being harbored,’ said Bolton…”
Bolton is a native of Pennsylvania with a law degree from the University of Iowa. She previously clerked for the Arizona Court of Appeals, worked in private practice and served as a judge in the Arizona state courts. She was nominated to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton on the recommendation of Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and was confirmed by unanimous consent of the Senate in 2000.
Courtroom observers present at the proceedings believe she will not overturn SB1070 in its entirety but may consider whether certain provisions should be struck down. A ruling in the case is now under advisement, meaning the judge will give it further consideration privately and without additional argument before issuing her ruling. SB1070 is scheduled to take effect in six days unless Judge Bolton intervenes before then.
Cross posted at Elijah’s Sweete Spot.