Monday, March 04, 2013

Valle Del Sol v. Whiting (9th Cir. - March 4, 2013)

It might seem easy to accurately summarize the facts of a case and the court's holding in a couple of introductory paragraphs.  But it's not.  Trust me.

Judge Fisher nonetheless accomplishes this task beautifully.  Here's what he says:

"Two provisions in Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 make it unlawful for a motor vehicle occupant to hire or attempt to hire a person for work at another location from a stopped car that impedes traffic, or for a person to be hired in such a manner. These provisions raise First Amendment concerns because they restrict and penalize the commercial speech of day laborers and those who would hire them. Arizona defends the provisions as traffic safety measures, designed to promote the safe and orderly flow of traffic.

We acknowledge that Arizona has a real and substantial interest in traffic safety. Arizona, however, has failed to justify a need to serve that interest through targeting and penalizing day labor solicitation that blocks traffic, rather than directly targeting those who create traffic hazards without reference to their speech, as currently proscribed under the State’s preexisting traffic laws. Laws like this one that restrict more protected speech than is necessary violate the First Amendment.

Arizona has also singled out day labor solicitation for a harsh penalty while leaving other types of solicitation speech that blocks traffic unburdened. Arizona defends this content-based distinction by invoking the “unique”  dangers posed by labor solicitation. That justification is only minimally supported by the record and, tellingly, S.B. 1070’s introduction says nothing about traffic safety. Rather it emphasizes that its purpose is to encourage self-deportation by stripping undocumented immigrants of their livelihood. Adopting content-based restrictions for reasons apparently unrelated to traffic safety further supports the conclusion that the day labor provisions restrict more speech than necessary.

Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment challenge to the day labor provisions. We therefore affirm the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction barring their enforcement."

You can read the entirety of Judge Fisher's 35-page slip opinion for more details.  But his introduction is a pretty darn good one, and tells you essentially what you're going to hear.

Well done.