- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A federal judge has ordered South Carolina to pay legal fees to a group that sued the state over its immigration law, according to court papers filed this week.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ordered the state to pay $98,000 in attorneys’ fees to groups including the American Civil Liberties Union. The order came after a filing in which attorneys for the state and the groups agreed upon that number, although state prosecutors asserted their position that the groups weren’t entitled to any such fees.

The ACLU and other groups sued South Carolina after the General Assembly approved the sweeping legislation, which was modeled after similar measures in Arizona and among the stiffest in the country. The lawsuit said parts of the South Carolina law, such as a provision allowing police to check people’s immigration status, were unconstitutional.

Some business-related parts of the law went into effect in 2012, including a requirement that businesses check new hires’ legal status through a federal system. South Carolina’s lawsuit was put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a legal challenge to Arizona’s law, ultimately nixing much of it but leaving the status check in place.

Gergel ultimately said the state’s status check provision could take effect but blocked most other parts of the law. An appeals court ruled some of South Carolina’s law inappropriately criminalized activity that should be up to the federal government to regulate, such as how to deal with crime suspects whom officers think might be in the country illegally.

State prosecutors have reiterated their disagreement with court decisions putting those provisions on hold but have acknowledged their defense of some of those elements likely would not succeed. The ACLU and other plaintiffs agreed to drop their remaining challenges to the law.


Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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