A judge likely to block the law prohibiting civilian police surveillance

A judge told lawyers on Tuesday he would likely rule that a new Arizona law that bars a majority of civilians from serving on police oversight committees is unconstitutional.

But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah said he was unlikely to overturn the entire state budget bill containing the police oversight provision. which was contested by the City of Phoenix.

The law went into effect on September 29 and prevents Phoenix from appointing a director for its new police oversight office. Phoenix is ​​also challenging a portion of the Criminal Justice Funding Bill that expands an existing law that allows a single lawmaker to request an attorney general investigation of city or county laws.

The city alleged that the Republican-controlled legislature violated provisions in the state’s constitution that require all bills to cover a single topic and that their titles reflect the content of the bill. The disputed parties were neither described in the title nor related to the subject of the criminal justice budget bill, the city said.

“The very likely outcome is that there will be something for everyone,” Hannah said. “I think the legislation violates the one subject rule, but I’m not inclined to strike down the whole bill, just the parts that the city challenged.”

Hannah said a decision was imminent, possibly by the end of the day. His comments came at the start of a brief hearing in which he questioned lawyers about the details of handling a claim for legal fees.

The judge’s announcement of the expected ruling comes just a week before the Arizona Supreme Court hears arguments in a fast-track case involving four other laws that are part of the 11-bill budget package passed by the legislature in June.

Another judge blocked provisions in three of these budget bills because those elements were not identified in the title of the bill and declared another completely void because it violated the rule of the constitution requiring that the bills cover only one subject. These rules were designed to prevent lawmakers from “logrolling” or compiling a mishmash of policy provisions into one bill and forcing lawmakers opposed to one party to support the bill while limiting knowledge of the bill. audience or debate.

Judge Katherine Cooper’s Sept. 27 ruling prevented several parts of the budget package from going into effect as planned on Sept. 29, including a state ban on local school mask warrants and bans on other local restrictions. COVID-19.

The Arizona Supreme Court has accepted the state’s direct appeal and will hear the case on November 2.

The legislature in the Hannah case is considering targeted civilian oversight offices and boards that Phoenix and other cities are creating to strengthen police accountability.

Republican lawmakers acted after Phoenix created a new “Accountability and Transparency Office” designed to be headed by a civilian to provide independent oversight of the Phoenix police. The new ordinance passed in May also created a civilian oversight board to review police actions and policies.

The city ordinance prohibited any current or former Phoenix police officer from serving as office manager or serving on the supervisory board.

The legislature included provisions in the state budget criminal justice budget bill requiring that at least 2/3 of any supervisory board be certified police officers working for the agency qu ‘it regulates. Phoenix maintains that this completely destroys the independence of the new accountability office.

The city also challenged a provision in the same budget bill that allows any lawmaker to request an attorney general investigation of “any written policy, written rule, or written regulation adopted by an agency, department or other county entity, city ​​or town ”.

The provision is an extension of an existing law known as SB1487 that penalizes local governments by withholding their state-shared revenues if they pass ordinances in conflict with state laws. Cities and counties derive a large portion of their income from sales and income taxes collected by the state.

“Regardless of everyone’s stance on police surveillance and SB 1487, these amendments deserved the proper (and constitutional) consideration of our legislature,” according to the city’s complaint.

Burying them in a massive budget bill covering eight topics and 28 sections violated the state’s constitutional mandate that bills must be debated and passed on their merits, Phoenix lawyer Jean-Jacques wrote. Cabou.

State attorney Patrick Irvine told the court in his response that the city did not have the right to sue and the issue was political in nature and not up to the courts. Irvine also said the provisions were legitimately related to “criminal justice” and that a more detailed title was not needed.

Justice Hannah summoned Irvine and Cabou on Tuesday to discuss how he might deal with the attorney’s fee claim in the case if he now issues a ruling allowing the parties to ask the Supreme Court to review his decision. The state and city agreed to let the attorney fees issue wait for the other case to be resolved by the High Court.

If the Supreme Court upholds Cooper’s and expected Hannah’s decision, it will have far-reaching ramifications for the GOP-controlled legislature.

Lawmakers have long ignored the constitutional requirement that finance bills deal only with spending items, instead of wrapping them with unrelated policy items. This year, the majority Republicans have been particularly aggressive, but that would no longer be possible.


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