MALDEF

Federal Court Rejects Arizona Vigilante Roger Barnett's Final Attempt To Avoid Paying For Attack On Immigrants

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Today, MALDEF lauded a decision by Senior U.S District Judge, Frank Zapata, denying Arizona vigilante Roger Barnett’s latest attempt to avoid paying punitive damages to a group of immigrants he attacked in 2004. The group included an unarmed Latina mother lying on the ground, whom Barnett kicked.

"We hope this will be the final chapter in Barnett’s attempts to avoid paying his victims the judgment that is long overdue,” stated MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel David Hinojosa. “It’s time for Barnett to pay for his actions and stop these meritless filings."

Barnett challenged the order to pay the immigrants using a "Rule 60" motion, in which he claimed that under Arizona law, he was not required to pay punitive damages to the immigrants because they were in Arizona unlawfully when the late Judge John Roll awarded damages to the four plaintiff women in February of 2009.

But, as MALDEF argued, the Arizona statute and constitutional provision banning undocumented immigrants from receiving punitive damages did not apply in this case because the immigrants were lawfully in the country when Judge Roll ordered Barnett pay a jury award that included $60,000 in punitive damages. Judge Zapata agreed, and also denied Barnett’s Rule 60 motion on the grounds that he had not appropriately raised the issue in his first round of appeals which he took all the way to the United States Supreme Court before being turned away. The Court also found persuasive MALDEF's arguments questioning the constitutionality of the Arizona laws.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, "The court's decision ensures that no wrongdoer can escape accountability by targeting the most vulnerable immigrants for attack. MALDEF looks forward to collecting from Barnett the recompense he owes the plaintiffs."

Just prior to Barnett's attack in 2004, the plaintiffs had been resting on public land near Douglas, Arizona. Barnett was armed with a gun – a semi-automatic .45 – and was accompanied by a large dog. He held the group captive, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. During the encounter, Barnett kicked a woman as she was lying, unarmed, on the ground. MALDEF has relentlessly sought restitution for the victims of Barnett’s brutality, successfully challenging all of his attempts to escape justice for his intolerable actions.

The law firms of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives P.A. and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP participated as pro bono counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund