Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne talks to *Arizona Week* host Michael Chihak.
Expect more, not fewer, court cases between Arizona and the federal government, as state lawmakers continue trying to delineate their rights in the face of what they say is an intrusive Congress.
Attorney General Tom Horne said even if he doesn't agree on the constitutionality of some measures that the Legislature passes, he will be obliged to defend the state on them, using outside lawyers. On those he agrees with, such as the ongoing fight over the state's tough immigration enforcement law, Horne will be in the fight all the way, he said in an interview for Arizona Week.
"My role is to go into court and defend state actions," Horne said. "For example, in Senate Bill 1070, I'm now in defense of that bill."
SB1070 is the immigration-enforcement law over which the federal government has sued Arizona, saying such enforcement is exclusively within federal authority. Horne and Gov. Jan Brewer filed a counterclaim to that shortly after he took office.
Other issues also may raise the specter of states' rights, he said.
"I do think that there are legitimate 10th Amendment issues," Horne said, referring to the constitutional amendment giving states powers and authority not specified for the federal government. "I am challenging some federal actions on the basis of the 10th Amendment in court cases."
"But I also believe that once the federal courts rule, we should obey those rulings, so I'm not among the group of people who maybe want to nullify federal actions in state court," he said.
Although, as he said, Horne is not in the "nullification" group of state elected officials, he is compelled to provide a legal defense.
Some bills "sound pretty extreme, and I hope we don't come to any of those," he said. "Normally speaking, yes, we would defend legislation passed by the Legislature. If I'm firmly convinced that something is unconstitutional and don't feel I can defend, then I would probably hire outside counsel to do that."
University of Arizona Law Professor Ana Maria Merico, an expert on federalism and the Constitution, said in an Arizona Week interview that while the U.S. Supreme Court has moved more in the direction of favoring states' rights in its rulings for the last decade or more, there is no constitutional basis for nullification.
Reporter Michael Chihak explores the battle between Arizona and the federal government in depth in the Feb. 25 issue of Arizona Week. Click to watch: