May 29, 2008
Judge strikes down Farmers Branch anti-immigrant law


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.

I presume a lawsuit challenging Ordinance 2952 will follow, and I also presume the plaintiffs will receive a temporary injunction prohibiting its enforcement until that matter is resolved. My guess is that it too will ultimately be struck down, though it's not as clearcut as Ordinance 2903 was.

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."

No clue about this one. I think single-member districts are more democratic, but that doesn't mean they're a requirement. As before, I'm rooting for the plaintiffs.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 29, 2008 to National news

Was there ever a serious question about how the court would rule? I mean, a first year bottom of the class law student could have provided better advice than the Farmers Branch city council got from their attorney. States lack authority under our constitution to deal with federal issues like immigration; therefore cities, as "creatures of the state" likewise lack such authority. My congrats to the court for correctly reigning in the mob mentality.

Posted by: Dennis on May 29, 2008 5:50 AM

It seems like single-member districts should be more democratic, but it all depends on how the lines are drawn. Since the people currently in charge draw those lines, it's tempting for them to draw them in such a way that they stay in charge.

So, I currently prefer at-large representation, because it's harder to mess with. But then I live in an area where we have some seats where all candidates are traditionally a given minority.

Posted by: Debbie M on May 29, 2008 9:19 AM
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