Court says the government can selectively enforce laws.
December 21, 2007 - 2:26AM
Pruitt’s loses lawsuit against Phoenix police
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
An Arizona appeals court ruled Thursday that citizens can’t sue to force police departments to enforce any specific law.
In making the unanimous ruling, the Arizona Court of Appeals tossed a lawsuit filed by Pruitt’s furniture store owner Roger Sensing against Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris. Sensing had demanded in the lawsuit that Phoenix officers start enforcing laws against loitering, littering and soliciting outside his business.
Sensing has complained day laborers gathering outside his business routinely violate these laws.
But the judges said police officers are entitled to discretion in deciding when to arrest or cite someone for breaking a law. That, the judges said, makes it improper for a court to mandate enforcement.
But Pruitt’s attorney, David Abney, contended Phoenix officers do not have discretion to enforce certain laws because Harris has directed all his officers not to enforce a specific statute.
He promised an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Part of what makes the case significant is the plaintiff. Sensing has been trying to get police to keep day laborers from gathering on the sidewalk next to his business to solicit jobs and handouts from passing motorists.
Sensing said the result has been people trespassing on his property and littering near 35th Street and Thomas Road. He said the day laborers have lowered area property values and created substantial costs for security.
Sensing has since hired off-duty Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies to patrol his lot, resulting in weekly protests in front of his store by demonstrators identifying themselves as immigration rights advocates.
Pruitt’s attorney said he is prepared to present testimony from officers saying there is a departmental policy against enforcing the solicitation law.
That, Abney said, violates another provision of the city code, which says the police chief “shall be responsible for the enforcement of state laws and city ordinances.’’
John Tutelman of the Phoenix City Attorney’s Office said he doubts there is a policy against enforcing the anti-solicitation law.
But appellate Judge Patrick Irvine said whether it does or does not is irrelevant.
He said the codes doesn’t impose a mandatory duty on the chief to act under a clearly defined set of circumstances.