Arizona's first legal bill for defending SB 1070: $77,136 - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Arizona's first legal bill for defending SB 1070: $77,136

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Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010 4:39 pm | Updated: 10:33 pm, Sat Jul 17, 2010.

The state has paid its first bill for defending the new immigration law.

But it's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The invoice for $77,136.58 represents only the work the law firm of Snell & Wilmer did in the last 11 days of May. That is right after Gov. Jan Brewer, using authorization given to her by state lawmakers, retained the outside counsel.

None of that reflects the work done in June and July responding to what have now become seven lawsuits challenging the legality of all or part of SB 1070. But gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said the number of hours spent since the last invoice has been "substantial."

He said that, all totaled, there now have been more than 600 legal filings containing more than 7,300 pages.

"New filings are received every day," Senseman said.

Brewer's attorneys already have filed motions to dismiss three of the lawsuits, with other responses still pending. And they also have worked on separate filings to combat efforts in three of the cases to convince U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to block the legislation from taking effect as scheduled on July 29.

John Bouma, the lead attorney for Snell & Wilmer, personally argued the first of those cases Thursday in federal court. He gets $450 an hour under the contract with the state.

But not everything for which the firm has billed the state relates directly to preparing the legal defense.

His activities for May 26, according to the invoice, includes a "phone conference" with Fox News. But Brewer press aide Paul Senseman said while an attorney may have answered some "technical questions" from Fox, the law firm has been directed to refer all media inquiries to the governor's office.

How much of the ultimate legal cost will be passed on directly to Arizona taxpayers, though, remains unclear. As of Friday, a legal defense fund set up by Brewer had amassed slightly more than $1.2 million according to gubernatorial press aide Tasya Peterson.

Brewer was given the power to hire outside counsel by lawmakers in legislation they approved subsequent to adopting the original version of SB 1070.

That new measure made several changes in the law, including limiting the ability to use race, ethnicity and national origin as a factor police can use when determining who to question about their immigration status. But it also directed Attorney General Terry Goddard to "act at the direction of the governor" in defending any lawsuits.

More to the point, it empowered Brewer to hire outside counsel.

Brewer did just that, contracting with Snell & Wilmer for what she said was a reduced rate. The governor subsequently elbowed Goddard off the case entirely, saying his public position against the legislation made him an unreliable defender of the law.

Goddard said the final version of the bill was legally defensible and disputed Brewer's power to oust him. But he formally withdrew from the cases rather than engage in a separate legal fight with the governor.

Many of the invoices reflect Brewer's motion to intervene in the cases, which now total seven. That is because some of the lawsuits name county attorneys and sheriffs as defendants, rather than Brewer or the state, as they are the ones who would enforce the new law.

The state also was billed for the time that Snell & Wilmer lawyers spent both preparing for and actually meeting with attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice. The federal attorneys had come to Arizona to meet both with the governor's legal team as well as Goddard to review the law and ask questions about its legality.

Whatever Bouma, Goddard and others told the Justice lawyers apparently did not convince them to back off, as the federal agency subsequently filed its own challenge to the law on July 6.

The billing records are not complete.

Various entries were blotted out before public release that Senseman said include "expressions of the mental thoughts, impressions and strategies of counsel."

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