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Hazleton Immigration Law Causes the City to Possibly Face $2.8 Million in Legal Fees

Attorneys who challenged Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act in a U.S. Supreme Court case are now seeking $2.8 million in legal fees. In 2006, Hazleton’s immigration ordinance stirred up controversy as it “penalized businesses that hired illegal immigrants and landlords who rented to illegal immigrants.”

The balance of fees and costs sought by the attorneys are for their time beginning in 2007, after a trial in which Senior Judge James Munley held the ordinance to be unconstitutional. The plaintiffs efficiently minimized their seventeen attorney and paralegal team that worked on the trial case to five members by the time of the appeals. These “[f]ive attorneys reduced their rates for work done through August 2007 even though they could have charged more, the petition says.”

On September 9, 2010, the appeals court upheld Judge Munley’s decision. Once again a year later, the appeals court upheld their decision when the Supreme Court asked the judges to rehear the case in light of an Arizona ruling that upheld an area of similar law.

The Supreme Court put a close to the case in March by refusing to hear any further appeals. Hazleton was able to pay for their legal fees by raising money through a website, but no money remains. Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi said, “he will discuss how to answer the plaintiffs’ petition for payment with Kris Kobach, the lead attorney for the city on the case.” Even though the plaintiffs recognize that the circuit court approved one section of Hazleton’s ordinance, they still believe they are entitled to their attorney fees for their overall success. It will be very interesting to see what the court ultimately grants as the attorney fee award based on the petition filed June 30th with Judge Munley.

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