- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging what’s left of Arizona’s controversial immigration law want the man who gained notoriety for pushing it to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for disobeying court orders.

The plaintiffs, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, contend former state Senate President Russell Pearce failed to conduct a reasonable search for emails from a personal account that could show the intent of SB1070.

Pearce, who was recalled from office in 2011, said he has turned over everything that the plaintiffs and their lawyers have requested, and he won’t be intimidated by the threat of being jailed.

“I’m not afraid of these people,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not afraid to give them what I have and to tell them what I think.”

Pearce was among nearly two dozen former and current state lawmakers who received subpoenas regarding SB1070. Republican leaders last year criticized the subpoenas as a fishing expedition.

The subpoenas sought communications containing terms such as “immigrant,” ”illegals,” ”undocumented,” ”day laborer” and “Mexican.” The plaintiffs said they received hundreds of pages of emails from others who corresponded with Pearce. But they argued in a court filing this week that Pearce has not fully complied, despite being compelled by a judge in September to do so.

Justin Cox, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project in Atlanta, said Pearce’s defiance infers that he destroyed the emails, withheld them or didn’t conduct a reasonable search.

“All of those possibilities are bad for him,” he said.

The plaintiffs asked a judge to allow a third party vendor to search Pearce’s records to move the case along faster, and for Pearce to ultimately cover the cost.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the most contentious section of SB1070 - a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of those suspected of being the country illegally. The courts have struck down or blocked other sections, such as a requirement that immigrants carry registration papers.

The subpoenas stem from the plaintiffs’ efforts to get the rest of the law declared invalid on the basis that lawmakers were motivated by racial bias and not fears of criminal behavior when they passed the law. That would violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.

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