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Court Blocks Cities’ Laws on Military Recruiters

(CN) - The 9th Circuit on Friday shot down two voter-approved city ordinances prohibiting military recruiters from targeting minors.

The federal appeals panel in San Francisco ruled that the identical ordinances adopted in Arcata and Eureka, Calif., cannot stand, as they clearly violate the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity.

Voters in both cities adopted the ballot measures in 2008 in response to "alleged violations of laws governing military recruitment" and claims that recruiters were not providing teens with a fair picture of military service, according to the ruling.

The ordinances called for civil penalties for any military recruiter targeting minors.

The federal government moved to kill the ordinances shortly after they were adopted, claiming in district court that they were preempted by federal law.

U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong agreed to invalidate the laws and permanently enjoined the cities from enforcing them.

The cities appealed, but the three-judge appellate panel agreed with Armstrong that the ordinances violated the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity by attempting to directly regulate and discriminate against the federal government.

"The ordinances - by their express terms - prohibit military recruiters from recruiting or attempting to recruit individuals under the age of 18," Judge Matthew Kennelly wrote for the three-judge panel. "By constraining the conduct of federal agents and employees, the ordinances seek to regulate the government directly."

The cities countered that the ordinances sought only to regulate behavior already prohibited under United Nations 2002 protocol on involving children in armed conflict.

The panel found this argument unconvincing, however.

"The cities offer no authority to support such an exception to the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity," Kennelly wrote. "A state or local law that directly regulates the conduct of the federal government or discriminates against it is invalid, even if it is no more restrictive than federal law."

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