Thursday, May 10, 2012



Note: This case continues to have serious implications for private
property and self defense rights.
"Kidnapped"? Unknown at this time if there will be an appeal.

Some more we have received: The AZ AG office never showed up to
defend the AZ law in question.

The ruling centers on a problem seen when the legislation was still
pending... it used the present tense, *are* present in violation of
immigration law. It was suggested changing that to were present here
in violation of immigration law at the time their claim arose. Under
the court's read, the statute is nullified. Persons can enter
illegally and sue over it. They can even appear in court while
illegally here -- they just have to make sure to leave before the
court signs the judgement (an event that can occur weeks after the
jury gives its verdict).

Rancher must pay damages to crossers
May 09, 2012 9:04 PM

PHOENIX — Cochise County rancher Roger Barnett cannot escape paying
punitive damages to border crossers he kidnapped despite a 2011 state
law passed specifically to help him, a federal judge has ruled.

Frank Zapata acknowledged that Arizona voters approved a measure in
2006 which constitutionally spells out that anyone not in this
country legally is ineligible to collect punitive damages after
winning a lawsuit.

That, however, came too late for Barnett, who was sued after a 2004
incident when 16 illegal immigrants said the rancher illegally
imprisoned them while they were crossing his property. One woman also
said she was kicked.

So last year, the Legislature voted to make that ballot measure
retroactive to the start of 2004.

Armed with that law, Barnett went back to federal court to void the
$60,000 in punitive damages that four of the plaintiffs were awarded
two years ago.

Zapata rejected the arguments.

The judge, almost in passing, said in a footnote that he accepted the
arguments of attorneys for the plaintiffs that the 2011 law is
unconstitutional. But Zapata said he could reject Barnett's arguments
on more basic grounds: If lawmakers were trying to help Barnett, they
did not do it right.

The judge pointed out that the constitutional language says those not
in this country legally cannot be awarded punitive damages.

But Zapata pointed out that the question of punitive damages — a
special award meant to punish a defendant for outrageous conduct or
make an example of that person — does not arise until the case is
finished and a defendant is found liable.

More to the point, Zapata pointed out that when a different judge
awarded punitive damages in February 2009, three of them were
lawfully present in the country. And a fourth, the judge said, had
returned to Mexico after she was allowed to be present to testify at
the trial.

"Therefore, when punitive damages were awarded, none of the
plaintiffs were present in Arizona in violation of federal
immigration law.''

During the 2011 legislative hearing, Rep. Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, said
helping Barnett was exactly what he had in mind.

He said the 2006 constitutional amendment, referred to the ballot by
the Legislature, was a direct reaction to the fact lawmakers knew
Barnett was being sued.

"We weren't smart enough at that point to understand that there was
going to be a time lapse,'' Weiers said at the time, making Barnett
unable to take advantage of that change.

Zapata, however, said all that is legally irrelevant. He said that
judges are bound to follow the words lawmakers put on paper -- and
into the statute books.

"If we find no ambiguity in the statute's language, we must give
effect to that language and we may not employ other rules of
construction to interpret the provision,'' the judge wrote.

Weiers argued at the time that the restriction against punitive
damages makes sense.

"How incredibly silly that you've got people breaking the law,
trespassing, doing this and that on personal property, and then
you're handed punitive damage awards," he said.

Barnett's separate efforts to have the entire verdict overturned have
proven no more successful. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
rejected his arguments that the trial judge should have told jurors
they could consider his claim of self-defense.

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