Photo: Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta
Hazleton, Pennsylvania is now responsible for at least $2.4 million in plaintiffs’ legal fees resulting from a lawsuit brought against them after the town’s officials passed a law attempting to ban undocumented immigrants from living in the Pennsylvania town.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last week affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Hazelton (pop. 22,000) could not pass off the plaintiffs’ legal fees to their insurance company after their Illegal Immigration Relief Act was ruled unconstitutional back in September.
The September ruling itself affirmed an original 2007 district court decision by Judge James Munley. The two courts agreed that Hazleton’s attempt to bar undocumented immigrants from renting or owning property was crossing a line in enforcing federal laws when they had no authority to do so.
Federal law allows plaintiffs who win civil rights complaints to ask the defendant(s) to pay their legal fees, and that’s exactly what Hazleton has to do now.
Kris Kobach, a prominent anti-immigration crusader, helped craft and defend the town’s bill, along with Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta. Barletta is now heading to Washington D.C. after his win last week for a seat in the House, and Kobach, who helped draft Arizona’s SB 1070 became Kansas’ new Secretary of State. The two have all but drained the town’s $430,000 legal defense fund defending the bill.