ACLU dismisses lawsuit against Coconino County sheriff represented by Phoenix attorneys

Michele Molinario, Justin M. Ackerman and John T. Masterson of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, P.L.C., were the attorneys for Coconino County Sheriff James Driscoll and Jail Cmdr. Matthew Figuero. (Submitted photos)

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of client Guillermo Tenorio-Serrano, recently moved to dismiss a class action lawsuit against Coconino County officials who were represented by a Phoenix law firm.

John T. Masterson, Michele Molinario and Justin M. Ackerman, of Jones, Skelton and Hochuli, P.L.C., were the attorneys for Coconino County Sheriff James Driscoll and Jail Cmdr. Matthew Figuero, according to a release.

Mr. Tenorio-Serrano was arrested by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on Dec. 11 on the charge of driving under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Tenorio-Serrano blew .203 and .195 on a DPS alcohol-testing intoxilyzer. Mr. Tenorio-Serrano was taken to the Coconino County Detention Facility, according to the release from Jones, Skelton and Hochuli, P.L.C.

On Dec. 12, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sent a notice of action – immigration detainer and a warrant for Mr. Tenorio-Serrano to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. The detainer stated that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Tenorio-Serrano was a removable alien and requested that the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office maintain custody of him for a period not to exceed 48 hours beyond the time he would otherwise be released in order for ICE officers to take custody of him, according to the release.

Mr. Tenorio-Serrano and the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against Coconino County Sheriff Driscoll and Jail Cmdr. Figueroa and alleged that the sheriff’s policy of holding pretrial detainees after they have satisfied conditions for release on state charges was unlawful and violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 2, Section 8, of the Arizona Constitution. Mr. Tenorio-Serrano and the ACLU sought a preliminary injunction ordering his immediate release.

“Prior to the lawsuit, Sheriff Driscoll stated that it was his understanding that state law required the jail to cooperate with federal authorities and honor ICE detainer requests,” according to the release.

“The sheriff further stated that he intended to cooperate with the lawful requests of federal authorities. He noted that the intent of Arizona state law is that state law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal agencies enforcing the immigration laws of the United States. The sheriff also made it clear that ‘if a court having jurisdiction over us changes the law, we’ll change our policy to comply with that immediately,'” according to the release.

After legal briefing and oral argument, U.S. District Court Judge David G. Campbell ruled against the ACLU and Mr. Tenorio-Serrano on July 5.

Judge Campbell determined that Mr. Tenorio-Serrano and the ACLU did not have “a fair chance of success on the merits,” and denied the request for a preliminary injunction, according to the release.

“Judge Campbell noted that the sheriff would face serious hardship if the court ordered him to refrain from complying with ICE detainers. The judge further noted that an injunction would interfere with Sheriff Driscoll’s judgment as an elected official, would interfere with the Arizona Legislature’s policy determination that Arizona should cooperate with federal immigration enforcement and might interfere with Arizona’s interest in preventing unlawful immigration as specifically recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court,” according to the release.

On July 30, Mr. Tenorio-Serrano, through his ACLU attorneys, moved to dismiss the class action lawsuit against the Coconino County officials. On Aug. 20, Judge Campbell dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

“As a result of the district court’s ruling, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office will continue to cooperate with federal authorities and honor ICE detainer requests. Sheriff Driscoll recognizes that there are different approaches to immigration policy. His main priority as a sworn law enforcement officer, however, is the safety of his community and the enforcement of the laws that he swore to uphold as the chief law enforcement officer of Coconino County,” according to the release.

Jones, Skelton and Hochuli, P.L.C., 40 N. Central Ave. Suite No. 2700 in Phoenix, has more than 85 lawyers and is a trial defense law firm specializing in insurance and insurance coverage. Lawyers focus their practice in the defense of corporations, self-insureds, government entities, insurance carriers and medical malpractice carriers. For additional information, visit jshfirm.com or call 602-263-1700.

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