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Justices reject Arizona no-bail law; OK immunity in prison suicide

June 1, 2015

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday rejected an Arizona county’s attempt to reinstate a state law that denies bail to people in the country illegally who are charged with certain crimes.

The justices left in place a lower-court ruling that struck down the law that Arizona voters approved in 2006.

The law denied 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.

As a result, immigrants spent months in jail and often simply pleaded guilty and were turned over to federal immigration authorities for deportation.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the case. It takes the votes of four justices to hear an appeal.

Thomas, in an opinion for himself and Scalia, said the court's action could give lower courts “free rein to strike down state laws on the basis of dubious constitutional analysis.” He said it is "disheartening" that another justice wouldn’t also want to review the lower court ruling.

In November, the justices refused a request from Maricopa County to keep the law in place while the appeal played out at the Supreme Court. Thomas dissented from that vote, too.

The case is County of Maricopa v. Lopez-Valenzuela, 14-825.

Separately Monday, the court ruled former Delaware prison administrators are immune from a lawsuit over a 2004 inmate suicide.

The justices on Monday ruled against the family of Christopher Barkes, who hanged himself just hours after being arrested for violating probation.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that the family could pursue claims that the prison violated Barkes’ constitutional rights by failing to conduct a proper suicide prevention screening.

But the justices in a per curiam opinion said there was no clearly established law at the time giving inmates a right to adequate suicide prevention protocols.

That case is Stanley Taylor, et al. v. Karen Barkes, et al., 14-939.

 

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