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Judge questions Justice Department’s lawsuit against Arizona immigration law

November 9, 2010

A federal appellate judge expressed deep skepticism Monday about a Justice Department lawsuit challenging Arizona’s new immigration law, leaving uncertain the Obama administration’s chances of stopping the law from taking effect.

Judge John T. Noonan Jr. grilled administration lawyers at a hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He took aim at the core of the Justice Department’s argument: that the Arizona statute is “preempted” by federal law and is especially troublesome because it requires mandatory immigration status checks in certain circumstances.

“I’ve read your brief, I’ve read the District Court opinion, I’ve heard your interchange with my two colleagues, and I don’t understand your argument,” Noonan told deputy solicitor general Edwin S. Kneedler. “We are dependent as a court on counsel being responsive. . . . You keep saying the problem is that a state officer is told to do something. That’s not a matter of preemption. . . . I would think the proper thing to do is to concede that this is a point where you don’t have an argument.”

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