Arizona governor Brewer removes attorney general from defense of immigration law

JJ Hensley and Casey Newton
The Arizona Republic

The U.S. Justice Department is still considering whether it will sue to block the implementation of Arizona’s new illegal-immigration law, which takes effect July 29.

But an announcement from Gov. Jan Brewer late Friday night casts doubt on whether Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard will defend the state in the face of legal action from the feds.

Brewer issued a statement Friday night saying that her legal team — not Goddard — would defend Arizona in lawsuits challenging the immigration law.

But Saturday, Goddard’s office responded that the attorney general would continue to defend the state, despite Brewer’s remarks.

In her statement removing Goddard from the defense, Brewer made reference to a piece of the immigration-enforcement bill that authorized her to hire outside counsel if necessary to defend the law.

Tim Nelson, the chief deputy attorney general, said that provision doesn’t take effect until the bill becomes law in late July.

“The attorney general will continue to defend the state in that legislation. That’s his job,” Nelson said. “That’s what he was elected to do and that’s what he’s going to do.”

Nelson was reluctant to say Goddard’s office would take legal action to prevent Brewer from pulling the attorney general off the case.

“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it,” he said.

Brewer cited Goddard’s opposition of the law and his “curious coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice.” “For some inexplicable reason, the Department of Justice officials met with the Arizona Attorney General hours before meeting with the State of Arizona’s legal team, and then allowed the Attorney General to hold a press conference to discuss the meeting,” Brewer stated.

After meeting with Justice Department officials on Friday, Goddard said he asked them not to sue the state but said if they chose to he would vigorously defend the law.

“I told them we need solutions from Washington, not more lawsuits,” Goddard said earlier on Friday. “While Senate Bill 1070 is far from perfect, it is a response to a serious problem. It would be just plain wrong for the federal government to sue.”

The article continues at The Arizona Republic.

UPDATE from AZ governor suspends Dem AG from immigration-law defense:

…It’s hard to imagine how Goddard thinks he can benefit from opposing the law or aligning himself so closely with Holder, an outspoken critic of the law. Arizonans overwhelmingly support the law, and they’re not likely to be budged by Holder’s scolding. Arizona voters will also wonder why Goddard is spending his time fighting Arizona rather than getting better cooperation from the Obama administration on immigration enforcement and border security.

The legislature also gave Goddard a vote of no confidence in its opt-out for Brewer. That adds to the baggage Goddard will have to carry into his election. On top of that, the longer this stays a national issue, the more Arizonans will dig in their heels — and the longer resentment towards Goddard will continue.


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