U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay issued a permanent injunction barring the city from implementing Ordinance 2903, which voters approved 2-to-1 in May 2007.
But the newer version of the effort, Ordinance 2952, remains and is slated to go into effect 15 days after a final judgment is issued on Ordinance 2903.
Though the judge Wednesday issued his opinion, he has not technically issued the final ruling, which an attorney for the city said would wrap together all the rulings in the case.
When it does come, it's likely to trigger a flurry of activity in the courts, as attorneys who sued the city over Ordinance 2903 try to keep Ordinance 2952 from taking effect.
Judge Lindsay said in a summary judgment - without allowing the case to go to trial - that Ordinance 2903 was unconstitutional.
He declined a request by the city to issue a summary judgment finding Ordinance 2952 constitutional. In that opinion, he criticized the city, saying the new law was an attempt to circumvent his earlier, preliminary, findings that 2903 was unconstitutional.
Ordinance 2952 differs from 2903 in that the city government, using a federal database, would be responsible for determining a prospective tenant's status. Also, it would apply to rental houses, as well as apartments.
Judge Lindsay said the city "put the cart before the horse" in asking for an opinion on the newer ordinance when it has not drawn a legal challenge.
On a side note:
The ruling came as testimony concluded in an unrelated lawsuit in which three Hispanic residents are trying to force Farmers Branch to elect City Council members by district rather than citywide.
The three contend that the current, at-large system dilutes the voting strength of Latinos. Although Farmers Branch was 37 percent Hispanic at the time of the 2000 census, the plaintiffs say history has shown that a Hispanic cannot win a Farmers Branch election.
They contend that if the city were divided into districts, one with a Hispanic voting majority could be created, increasing the chances that a Latino could win a council seat.
"All they want is to be able to elect a candidate of their choice," plaintiffs' attorney Rolando Rios said.
Bob Heath, an attorney for the city, said federal law requires those who want to force such a change to show that they can draw a district in which a majority of the voting-age U.S. citizens are Hispanic.
"The problem in Farmers Branch is they cannot," he said. "The Hispanic community cannot draw a Hispanic citizen voting-age majority."