Hazelton, PA to pay attorney’s fees for ACLU and others

A U.S. Judge, James Munley, ruled that the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is obliged to pay $1.4 million to civil rights attorneys who derailed the city’s immigration law.  

Munley granted the attorneys roughly half of the $2.84 million that they had hoped for in the case.  The case began in 2006 and made it to the Supreme Court.  

Munley ordered Hazelton to pay $1.38 million in fees and $47,594 in costs.  

An ACLU attorney, Omar Jadwat, said “Hazleton knew and its politicians knew all along that if they were sued and lost, there would be a bill to pay at the end.”

The Hazelton law sought to punish landlords whose clients did not have legal residency and companies that employed immigrants who lacked the legal means of working in the United States.  

Those that challenged the law included: the ACLU, Latino Justice, the Community Justice Project, and attorneys from the Philadelphia law office of Cozen O’Connor.  

The trial that brought about Munley’s court order to get rid of the law and the appeals to a circuit court and the Supreme Court caught international attention.  The case also brought attention to Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta and aided in his winning of a congressional seat.  He was a large proponent of the law following two cases of murder that involved immigrants.  

City council voted in many versions of the law following the murders.  

Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi when he was a councilman, “We felt we were right. We still feel we are right. Of course, they don’t agree with us.”

Hazelton’s attorneys argued that immigrants, who didn’t have the correct documentation to be in the U.S., strained the city’s funds.  

Munley blocked the parts of the law that involved businesses and landlords so the law was never enacted.

In 2010, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld Munley’s ruling.  In 2011, the Supreme Court requested that the Philadelphia court reconsider, citing a ruling that upheld a similar law in Arizona.  

The Philadelphia court kept its decision and the case died in 2014 when the Supreme Court decided against further involvement.  

Barletta went on to say, “What is legal today in Arizona or Fremont, Nebraska, is not legal in Hazleton. That’s unfair, and the U.S. Supreme Court should step in and fix this patchwork of local laws intended to combat illegal immigration.”

Jadwat went against, “One thing that is clear for a long time now, partially because of this case and also because of other cases, is that the path Hazleton chose to go down … is not a path open to cities.”