Court urged to let no-bail ruling take effect

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Immigrant advocates urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to deny a request to shelve a lower-court's ruling that struck down an Arizona law that denies bail to people in the country illegally who are charged with certain crimes.

The nation's highest court agreed on Friday to temporarily put on hold the Oct. 15 ruling. That order will remain in place while the Supreme Court decides whether to delay implementation of the decision on a more long-term basis.

Three weeks ago, an 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the 2006 voter-approved law, ruling it violates due-process rights by imposing punishment before trial. The panel also said the law was a "scattershot attempt" at confronting people who flee from authorities, and that there was no evidence the law dealt with a particularly critical problem.

The law denies bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who defended the law before the courts, plan to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, Arpaio and Montgomery want the appeals court's ruling to remain on hold.

Their attorney said in court papers late last week that the 9th Circuit ruling conflicts with an Arizona appeals court that upheld the law and calls into question categorical bans on bail in 40 states. Arpaio and Montgomery maintain the risk to Arizona isn't speculative. Their attorney said an official responsible for bail hearings has already scheduled hearings for Nov. 17.

Immigrant advocates said the lower-court decision isn't expected to be reversed because it's focused narrowly on the unique features of Arizona law. They also said the ruling doesn't call into question other states' bans, arguing the Arizona law isn't limited to category of extremely serious crimes, but rather encompasses a broad range of offenses, including the unlawful copying of music.

"Weighing heavily on the other side of the scale is the wholesale denial of due process for an unpopular political minority that the Arizona Legislature and electorate have once again decided to single out without justification," said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Andre Segura, who represents those who sought to have the law thrown out.

The law was approved with 78 percent of the vote and was among four immigration proposals approved by Arizonans in 2006. The other measures made English the state's official language, barred immigrants who aren't authorized to be in the country from receiving punitive damages in lawsuits and prohibited them from receiving certain government services and benefits.

Arizona is one of at least four states with laws confronting the issue of bail for people in the country without authorization. Missouri and Alabama have similar laws, while Virginia has a less stringent statute in which immigrants are allowed to argue their case for bail before a judge.

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