Puente, et al. v. Arizona State Legislature

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

December 4, 2019

Current Status 

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint against the Arizona State Legislature on December 4, 2019, alleging violations of the Arizona Open Meeting Law took place at the ALEC conference occuring in Scottsdale that week. The judge granted our motion to serve the legislature by mail after it had refused to accept service, arguing that it was a "non-jural entity" that could not be sued - despite the fact that it had previously both sued and been sued. The Arizona State Legislature then moved to dismiss the case on March 19, 2020. We opposed the motion on May 4, 2020.

Co-Counsel 

The People's Law Firm, PLC

Client(s) 

Puente
Mijente Support Committee
Jamil Naser, a lead organizer with the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance
Jamaar Williams, a member of Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro
Jacinta Gonzalez, senior organizer with Mijente Support Committee

Case Description 

Organizers and representatives of Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance (APSA), Black Lives Matter (BLM) Phoenix Metro, Mijente, Puente, and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit in Arizona state court against 26 Arizona lawmakers who attended the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Nation and States Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groups claim that the lawmakers, who together make up a quorum of several Arizona legislative committees, have violated Arizona’s Open Meeting Law by meeting behind closed doors at the private ALEC gathering. A closed meeting of a quorum of an Arizona legislative committee where members debate, discuss, deliberate, or otherwise work is a violation of the Arizona Open Meeting Law.

The filing came after the Center for Constitutional Rights, Dream Defenders, Palestine Legal, The Red Nation, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights together released the report “ALEC Attacks: How evangelicals and corporations captured state lawmaking to safeguard white supremacy and corporate power,” which examines the harmful impact of ALEC laws on people of color.

ALEC is a ‘pay-to-play’ club for corporations and conservative political activists that pay ALEC membership fees in return for exclusive private access to state lawmakers. According to an ALEC “Business Plan” from 1996, “ALEC’s product is policy, and its customers are state legislators and private sector supporters.” ALEC boasts that approximately one-third of all state lawmakers in the U.S. are members. ALEC has a long legacy of supporting the development and adoption of infamous laws that have had significant impacts on people of color, such as Stand Your Ground laws, Voter ID laws, Right-to-Work laws, Critical Infrastructure laws, and anti-boycott laws that punish people and businesses that participate in First Amendment-protected boycotts in support of Palestinian rights.

At an ALEC meeting in 2009, exactly ten years prior to this lawsuit being filed, a forerunner to what would become Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant law SB 1070 was introduced to the ALEC meeting by the state senator that would go on to be SB 1070’s lead sponsor, Russell Pearce. SB 1070 made it a state misdemeanor crime for a non-U.S. citizen to be in Arizona without carrying the required documents. The law effectively granted authority for law enforcement to racially profile and harass Latinx people, since it exclusively targeted undocumented people, for the benefit of ALEC members operating privately-run immigration detention centers.

In the lawsuit, APSA, BLM Phoenix Metro, Mijente, Puente, and the Center for Constitutional Rights allege facts that raise a reasonable inference that the legislators are meeting in closed sessions in violation of the law, for the purposes of developing laws. Given the legacy of ALEC members developing harmful laws in private, it is a matter of great public importance. Those filing the lawsuit are seeking a ruling from the court that declares that the presence of a quorum of lawmakers at ALEC’s meeting is in violation of the Open Meeting Law.

Case Timeline

March 19, 2020
Arizona State Legislature moves to dismiss case
March 19, 2020
Arizona State Legislature moves to dismiss case
We file our response on May 4, 2020.
February 14, 2020
Judge grants motion for alternative service
February 14, 2020
Judge grants motion for alternative service
The Arizona legislature refuses to accept service of the complaint through three different means, arguing that it is a "non-jural entity" that cannot be sued - despite the fact that it has previously both sued and been sued. The judge grants our motion to serve the legislature by mail.
December 4, 2019
Complaint filed against Arizona State Legislature
December 4, 2019
Complaint filed against Arizona State Legislature