Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 09:14:47 -0500
From: Dennis Baron
Subject: arizona english only struck down (again?)

here's the web site for the article--


Arizona court strikes down

English-only law

State high court says law is unconstitutional

By Paul Davenport

The Associated Press

April 28, 1998

PHOENIX -- The Arizona

Supreme Court on Tuesday

struck down as unconstitutional a voter-approved law requiring

official state and local business be conducted only in English.

Several court challenges left the measure in legal limbo since

approved it in 1988 as an amendment to the Arizona Constitution.

A different challenge than the one decided Tuesday was left

unresolved last year when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule

on it.

The state Supreme Court ruled the law violates free-speech rights

under the U.S. Constitution of the public, public employees and

elected officials.

"The amendment adversely affects non-English-speaking persons

and impinges on their ability to seek and obtain information and

services from government," the opinion said.

Also, because the measure "chills First Amendment rights that

government is not otherwise entitled to proscribe," it also

the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause,

the opinion added.

Opponents of the measure branded it as racist, while supporters

called it common sense and promised to appeal to the U.S.

Supreme Court.

State Sen. Pete Rios, a Hayden Democrat who was among the

plaintiffs in the case decided Tuesday, said the measure's

supporters played on unjustified fears of those who cannot speak

other languages.

"There is no movement in the state of Arizona to replace English

the official language of this state," Rios said. "People accept

English is the official language of this state."

Robert D. Park, a Prescott activist who campaigned for the law's

passage and intervened in the court cases to defend it, said he

would appeal in federal court, hopefully directly to the Supreme


"The First Amendment applies to private speech, not government

speech. What they're saying here now is that ... a government

employee has a right to choose what language to do business in,"

Park said. "That is totally unacceptable."

The state high court said it was expressing no opinion on the

constitutionality of less restrictive English-only provisions nor

discussing the legality of efforts that are limited to promoting


"We also emphasize that nothing in this opinion compels any

Arizona governmental entity to provide any service in a language

other than English," the opinion said.

Arizona is among at least 21 states that have enacted official

laws, though the Arizona version is more restrictive than most.

of the others are largely symbolic, with several merely stating

English is the state's official language.

The Arizona measure required the state and its political

to "act in English and no other language" and prohibited them

making laws or policies that required the use of a language other

than English. Also, no government document "shall be valid,

effective or enforceable unless it is in the English language."

It allowed exceptions to comply with federal law, to protect the

rights of crime victims and defendants, to protect public health

safety and to teach students in bilingual education.

The court rejected arguments by defenders of the law that it

only to official acts of government and would not apply to such

things as conversations between legislators and constituents.

The opinion was written by retired Justice James Moeller and

joined by Justices Thomas A. Zlaket, Charles E. Jones and Stanley

G. Feldman.

Justice Frederick J. Martone wrote a separate opinion in which he

agreed with the results but expressed reservations about

legal issues in the case.

A U.S. District Court tossed the law out as unconstitutional, and

ruling was upheld by the federal Court of Appeals. But the U.S.

Supreme Court sent the issue back to state courts on a

the state employee who had filed that suit later left her


Attorney General Grant Woods' office had defended the law as

constitutional because it was limited in scope, but an aide said

Woods welcomed the latest ruling.

"It's probably a good thing because we didn't need English only

anyway," Woods spokeswoman Karie Dozer said.

Stephen Montoya, the lawyer who challenged the law, did not

immediately return a call Tuesday. He argued in November in court

that the measure was "profoundly racist" and unconstitutional.

"It is something that exclusively falls upon the Native Americans

the Asian-Americans and the Hispanic-Americans and does not fall

upon the majority of people," Montoya said then.


Dennis Baron, Head phone: 217-333-2390

Department of English fax: 217-333-4321

University of Illinois email: debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

608 S. Wright Street

Urbana, IL 61801