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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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Bid to Rehear Man’s Ban From AZ Senate Denied

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The full Ninth Circuit will not revisit its panel's ruling that former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce violated a labor leader's First Amendment rights by removing and barring him from the statehouse.

Pearce, then a Republican senator known for authoring severe immigration laws in the state including a statute prohibiting bail and pretrial release for undocumented immigrants, had Salvador Reza thrown off the premises for allegedly disrupting a hearing.

Reza - a member of Tonatierra, a community development organization that seeks to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families - attended a February 2011 legislative hearing concerning state immigration law and viewed the hearing via broadcast in one of the Senate building's overflow rooms.

The group was vocal and applauded frequently during the hearing, and Pearce claimed the noise interfered with Senate business and that Reza responded flippantly when police officers asked the group to quiet down. After the hearing Pearce had Reza identified and barred from the building.

Reza sued Pearce and the officers in June 2011, claiming First Amendment violations. A federal judge found for Pearce, deciding that he was protected by qualified immunity, but the Ninth Circuit's three-judge panel reversed the ruling in August.

Circuit Judge Milan Smith wrote in the panel's opinion that Pearce's complete ban of Reza from the building "exceeds the bounds of reasonableness as a response to a single act of disruption," although the full panel agreed the arresting officers were entitled to qualified immunity because they had acted on a "facially valid" issued by Pearce.

Smith and Circuit Judge Paul Watford denied Pearce's request to rehear the case en banc, and none of the other circuit judges from the court requested a vote on an en banc rehearing.

No further petitions for rehearing may be filed, according to the order.

Arizona voters ousted Pearce in a November 2011 recall election, apparently tired of his hard-line stance on immigration and an ethics scandal involving free tickets and all-expenses-paid junkets from Fiesta Bowl officials.

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