[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] on Wednesday blocked [order, PDF] Arizona from enforcing a section of the state’s 2010 immigration enforcement law [SB 1070 materials] that bans drivers from blocking traffic to acquire or offer day labor services. The plaintiffs contend that the contested portions of the legislation violate the First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] right to commercial free speech.
Judge Susan Bolton applied the commercial speech test to determine whether the legislation was an unconstitutional restriction on commercial speech and concluded that the legislation was unlawfully restrictive:
The Court finds that Defendants have not shown that A.R.S. § 13-2928(A) and (B), which are content-based restrictions of speech, are drawn to achieve the substantial governmental interest in traffic safety. As an initial matter, because the regulation is content-based and applies only to solicitation of employment, not other types of solicitation, it appears to be structured to target particular speech rather than a broader traffic problem. The adoption of a content-based ban on speech indicates that the legislature did not draft these provisions after careful evaluation of the burden on free speech.
Bolton ordered that, because the plaintiffs would likely succeed on the merits of their case and would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction, injunctive relief was appropriate. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website], in a statement [text, PDF] released after the order was handed down, contended that the portions of the legislation related to day laborers was a “necessary traffic safety measure.”
The District Court’s ruling is part of a long line of challenges to SB 1070. Since SB 1070’s passage, similar laws have been passed in Utah, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Indiana [JURIST reports]. Even though SB 1070 has influenced the passage of similar laws in other states, it has attracted sharp criticism. Attorneys for Brewer filed a brief with the US Supreme Court [official website] in February, asking the court to lift an injunction [JURIST report] that has blocked several provisions of SB 1070 from taking effect. In December, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether Arizona’s controversial immigration law is preempted by federal law [JURIST report]. In November, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged the Supreme Court not to hear Arizona’s appeal [JURIST report] of a decision enjoining four provisions of SB 1070. The Supreme Court in May ruled in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder] that Arizona’s controversial employment related immigration law [materials] is not preempted [JURIST report] by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).