Law professor: Justices must see past politics - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Law professor: Justices must see past politics

U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court

Despite the controversy surrounding Arizona's immigration law, the justices of the United States Supreme Court will face a basic legal question, according to a noted ASU law professor.

"Does it conflict with federal law?," asked Paul Bender, who was the deputy solicitor general under President Bill Clinton and now teaches at ASU.

"If it conflicts with federal law, then it's unconstitutional because the Construction says that the federal law is supreme. But to decide whether it is in conflict is not all that simple," Bender said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: SCOTUS Takes Up Arizona's Immigration Enforcement Law

The issue SB 1070 brings up is one that the Supreme Court has never tackled before. To make the issue murkier is the fact that dozens of outside organizations and groups have a keen interest in the outcome of the case.

These groups have filed more than 40 "friend of the court" briefs, which urge the justices to rule one way or the other. Some of the briefs introduce politics into the argument. Others play fast and loose with the facts.

CBS 5 News took a hard look at the brief filed by former state Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored SB 1070.

"Even though only certain provisions of SB 1070 have thus far been implemented, they have been credited with a significant effect on the crime rate in Arizona," the brief read.

"Since SB 1070, Phoenix has experienced a 30-year low crime rate."

But a review of Arizona's crime statistics shows the crime rate has been dropping since at least 2003, years before SB 1070 was signed into law.

"If the court thought that was true, some of the justices might use that as a reason for deciding the case," Bender said.

But he believes the justices will look beyond the politics and stick to the legal issues.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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