Several federal government defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit recently filed by Gov. Doug Ducey in his attempt to determine who has jurisdiction over land near the border within the State of Arizona.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service and its Chief Randy Moore, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its Commissioner Camille Calimlim, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack argued in the motion that Ducey’s actions on U.S. lands “directly conflict” with numerous federal laws.
The motion to dismiss also argues that Arizona’s concurrent jurisdiction to land at the border does not convey a right for Ducey to occupy and use federal lands without federal authority. As a result, the State of Arizona must yield to the United States’ plenary authority over the lands, the motion argues.
Ducey will have an opportunity to respond to the motion to dismiss, after which U.S. District Senior Judge David Campbell will likely hold oral arguments in early 2023.
Also on Wednesday, Campbell granted the Center for Biological Diversity permissive intervention, finding the group has defenses to Ducey’s lawsuit “that share with the main action a common question of law or fact — whether the federal government may act with respect to the border lands of Arizona, including in the enforcement of federal environmental statutes.”
However, Campbell issued a warning to attorneys for the Center that the purpose of granting intervenor status “is not to convert this case into an environmental enforcement action or launch into broad ranging discovery on environmental issues.”
Instead, the purposed is to enable Intervenor to provide input on the claims and issues raised by Ducey. The judge further noted he will hold the Center “to its commitment not to unduly complicate this case, delay the proceedings, inject irrelevant issues, or repeat arguments made by the federal defendants.”
The Center has until Dec. 2 to file an answer in the case.
Ducey filed the six-claim lawsuit in October in an attempt to have the U.S. District Court determine important questions of law regarding jurisdiction over land near the border within the State of Arizona and the state’s own interests in protecting itself in the face of the crisis brought on by countless migrants illegally crossing unsecured areas of the border without action by the federal government.
The inaction of the Biden administration has resulted in “a mix of drug, crime, and humanitarian issues the State has never experienced at such a significant magnitude,” according to Ducey’s lawsuit.
Before filing the lawsuit, Arizona officials pleaded many time with the Biden administration to act, “but such pleas have been either ignored, dismissed, or unreasonably delayed,” the lawsuit notes. “Rather than cooperate and work together with Arizona, the federal government has taken a bureaucratic and adversarial role.”
Ducey responded to this inaction by directing that some gaps in the border wall be temporarily filled with double-stacked storage containers that will help control movement along the border.
The move got the attention of the White House, which now claims Ducey and the State do not have authority to undertake these types of protective actions. The six-claim lawsuit seeks answers to the authority of a governor to issue a state of emergency to protect the lives and welfare of Arizona citizens and their property.
In response to the lawsuit, the Center filed a motion earlier this month seeking to intervene in the case as a defendant along with the named federal defendants.
The Center contends the temporary barriers put into place by the State will block animal migratory paths as well as streams and washes. It also claims the temporary barrier effort will “trash the Sonoran Desert and public lands” while doing nothing “to prevent people or drugs from crossing the border.”
But the Center also alleges Ducey’s border barrier project is “part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization” that ignores damage to “human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses, and international relations.”
Ducey opposed the intervention effort by the Center, while the federal defendants took no position on intervention, except that it be a permissive and not by-right status which can be discontinued by the Court if deemed necessary.
As the end of Election Day drew near, Republican candidates Blake Masters (Senate) and Kari Lake (gubernatorial) filed an emergency motion in court to keep Maricopa County polls open until 10 pm. Polls close at 7 pm.
The complaint cited that voters were convinced by poll workers to spoil (discard) their ballots or not vote at all. Reportedly, those voters convinced to spoil their ballots were erroneously told that they could again cast a vote at another location.
“[N]umerous individuals presenting to vote at some or all of these locations were unlawfully induced by poll workers to discard their ballots or otherwise forfeit their opportunity to cast a legally sufficient vote,” stated the complaint. “Immediate judicial intervention is necessary to prevent irreparable injury to the Plaintiffs, vindicate the clear directives of the Arizona Legislature, ensure the fair and equal treatment of all Maricopa County electors guaranteed by the Arizona Constitution, and secure the integrity of the results of the November 8, 2022 general election.”
The lawsuit stated that at least 36 percent of all vote centers in Maricopa County experienced ballot tabulation machine failures — or, about 80 vote centers. That’s an increase from the noontime estimate given by Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, who said that about 60 vote centers, or 27 percent, were impacted by malfunctioning tabulators.
As AZ Free News reported Tuesday, it took officials eight hours to announce the potential cause for the tabulation failures: printer settings.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) and an individual, former state legislator and elector Jill Norgaard, joined in the petition.
In addition to keeping vote centers open, the group also asked the court to suspend the public release of tabulated early ballot returns in the county until 11 pm. They also asked that polling inspectors allow voters to complete and cast a provisional ballot if they’re recorded as having already cast a vote.
The State of Arizona has paid roughly $6 million in the last three years to private law firms to defend the Arizona Department of Child Safety against multiple allegations of staff malfeasance and misfeasance leading to the neglect, even death, of children placed into the state’s foster care system.
In the meantime, concerns brought forth by the Arizona Auditor General’s Office in 2019 about foster home recruitment, licensure, use, and retention have not been fully implemented by DCS, and there won’t be another status report to the Arizona Legislature until later this year, according to public records.
A nearly 60 page special report to Gov. Doug Ducey and lawmakers in September 2019 outlined six recommendations for improvements within DCS for Arizona’s foster care system. One key area of concern was foster parents who reported feeling excluded from decisions about the children in their care as well as difficulty accessing needed support and pressure to accept foster placements.
There were also several instances in which foster parents complained of being provided “incomplete or inadequate” information about the children placed in their care, something auditors confirmed when reviewing placement packets as part of the audit.
In May 2020, the Auditor General’s Office provided lawmakers with an initial follow-up, at which time it was revealed DCS was still in the process of implementing five of the six recommendations. Steps to implement the sixth recommendation had not been started, according to the audit report, despite the fact it addressed one of the main complaints – the lack of customer service to improve foster parent recruitment and ensure retention.
Instead, DCS was concentrating on developing and launching of Guardian, its much needed new agency-wide database. But when Guardian went live in February 2021, state employees closed off some features of the system to other state agencies, including the State Foster Care Review board and the Arizona Ombudsman’s Office.
In addition, there were numerous complaints from foster parents, adoptive parents, and foster children transitioning out of foster care about late payments for several weeks after Guardian went live.
A November 2021 “second follow-up” report by the Arizona Auditor General at the 24-month period did not get into those problems. Instead, the report to the chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee remained focused on the six recommendations from 2019, of which DCS had fully implemented only 50 percent.
And there was still had no start date in sight for implementing an improved customer service model, according to that report.
Despite the lack of performance by DCS, there will not be another audit report to the Legislature on the foster home concerns until this fall, according to August General Lindsay Perry’s office. That will mark three years after the initial special report.
The six recommendations and findings as noted in the November 2021 report were:
1. DCS should develop and implement a customer service model to improve foster parent recruitment and retention, and engage in continuous quality improvement via feedback to ensure the model’s successful implementation.
But according to the Perry’s staff, DCS reported “it has yet to begin implementing a customer service model because of competing priorities within the Department, such as implementing its new case management system (Guardian). The Department has not identified a start date for implementing this recommendation.”
2. DCS should, as required by Arizona law, provide foster parents “with complete, updated written placement packet information upon placement of children with foster parents.”
The placement packets began being issued by DCS in September 2021 through an online portal for new and renewed placements. However, obtaining feedback on whether the packets were worthwhile was to be included as part of the improved customer service outlined in Recommendation 1. As a result, the Auditor General cannot make any assessments until the 3-year report on whether the placement packets have resolved concerns expressed by foster parents.
3. The Auditor General also recommended DCS undertake an effort to find out why a foster parent closes his or her license. The pre-Guardian database only allows one reason to be entered, even though foster parents fill out a form which allows for marking multiple reasons. According to DCS, this problem will be resolved at some point via Guardian.
4. Already implemented is the Auditor General’s recommendation that DCS develop and implement procedures to ensure contractors and staff adequately handle intake in English and Spanish, including answering or returning phone calls in a timely manner and meeting Department expectations for call quality.
5. Also implemented was the recommendation that DCS implement procedures to ensure contractors maintain websites with information about how to become a foster parent in Spanish.
6. DCS also improved its monitoring of foster home recruitment and support contracts to ensure core contract requirements are being met, such as providing access to respite care and other requirements DCS deems critical to the contracts’ success.
Previous Democratic state representative Gabby Giffords alleged in a federal lawsuit that the National Rifle Association (NRA) broke campaign finance laws by using shell corporations to coordinate advertising with individuals running for federal office. The lawsuit alleged that the NRA illegally gave up to $35 million to the campaigns of at least seven candidates: previous President Donald Trump, who may have received up to $25 million; Republican Senators Josh Hawley (MO), Thom Tillis (NC), Ron Johnson (WI), Tom Cotton (AR); former Republican Senator Cory Gardner (CO); and Representative Matt Rosendale (MT).
These illegal contributions allegedly occurred in the 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections. In that last year, Giffords filed complaints to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the NRA’s contributions. After the FEC didn’t act, Giffords sought and received a district court order this September to compel the FEC to act within 30 days. The FEC reportedly failed to act once again, allowing Giffords to sue. Those named in the complaint are the NRA, Rosendale, and Hawley.
Giffords’ counsel asserted that these allegedly illegal funds were the NRA “buying influence over elected officials” as part of a national scheme. Giffords Law Center Senior Staff Attorney David Pucino characterized the NRA and the politicians they backed financially as corrupt.
“The NRA has long acted like it is above the law, and it has done so flagrantly in the last several election cycles. This lawsuit demonstrates that the NRA broke the law by illegally coordinating with federal campaigns and funneling millions of dollars to candidates who supported their extremist, deadly agenda,” said Pucino. “We are suing the NRA to finally hold them accountable for actions that corrupted politicians and undermined our democracy.”
The NRA responded Thursday, asserting their innocence.
“[Just] another premeditated abuse of the public by our adversaries, who will stop at nothing in their pursuit of their anti-freedom agenda. This latest action is as misguided as it is transparent,” asserted the NRA. “Suffice it to say, the NRA has full confidence in its political activities and remains eager to set the record straight.”
Giffords’ lawsuit describes how she co-founded her gun violence nonprofit in 2013 to compete directly with the NRA after surviving a targeted shooting in 2011. The other co-founder was her husband, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.
As AZ Free News reported in September, Kelly never recused himself from voting on President Joe Biden’s since-retracted nominee for the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), David Chipman, who his nonprofit hired, endorsed, and backed financially.
The lawsuit requests relief in the form of limited funding in future elections and a penalty payment matching their allegedly illegal contributions: up to $35 million.