Counting The Silverware

Author: on September 13, 2010

Nobody likes to pay for legal advice.

But it’s a double whammy when you end up paying for really bad legal advice.  Just ask the good citizens of Hazelton, Pennsylvania whose pockets have been emptied to the tune of $2,400,000 in legal bills run up by Kris Kobach, a fringe anti-immigrant restrictionist and candidate for Kansas Secretary of State.

Kobach proudly touts his role in drafting the poorly-written 2006 Hazelton statute, which thrusts on landlords and businesses the responsibility for figuring out who is and isn’t lawfully present in the U.S. before renting or providing services to an individual.  The law was quickly thrown out by a federal judge because it violated the Constitution.  Just last week, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed stating,

It is … not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted. We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress.

Now the taxpayers of Hazelton are left with Kobach’s astronomical legal bill; and he is pining away for still more litigation claiming, “It’s going to be difficult for [the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decision] to stand. The court really had to stretch to find a way to agree with the ACLU.”   Can you hear the “ch’ching” of Kobach’s legal fee cash register?  How many more small American communities will be duped by Kobach into supporting his hate filled anti-immigrant crusade?

And Hazelton is not alone.  Sharing the dubious honor of owing Kobach a lot of money are Farmers Branch, Texas ($4,000,000), Valley Park, Missouri ($270,000) and Maricopa County, Arizona ($12,600 plus expenses).   According to Political Correction this adds up to a whopping $6,600,000!  Not a bad day’s pay for shoddy lawyering.

Along with the legal bills Kobach is developing an impressive record of courtroom defeats.  His 3rd Circuit smack-down comes on the heels of Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling that S.B. 1070, Arizona’s infamous “show me your  papers” law, also offended the Constitution.  In case you hadn’t heard, Kobach was instrumental in drafting that law too.

Kobach claims to be an expert in the Constitution. But he might want to take a moment and read it. The good news is that even if he won’t the courts will.

In the meantime, if you live in small town America hold on to your wallets.  And if Kobach visits your town you might want to count the silverware when he leaves.

  • mepiston

    It seems unseemly for we as lawyers to be gloating about clients who are taken advantage by other attorneys, even our opponents, charging outrageous fees. Overcharging for lost causes or worse is by no means a flaw which the immigration lawyer community is innocent of, as anyone who has been following the accounts of numerous AILA members prosecuted for defrauding their clients and the government can attest.

    More to the point, I think AILA should show a touch more understanding to those communities who are making what most members of the public consider to be quite reasonable steps to attempt to resolve on their own a dilemma forced upon them by the federal government’s unwillingness to come to grip with the problem of immigration. I submit that AILA members can find much common ground with those who argue that it is unacceptable that we as a nation should have a large community of people who are not legally authorized to be here living and working in our communities and, in many cases, imposing upon these communities huge costs which they have little or no chance of being reimbursed. To cite but one example, the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyer v. Doe requires local communities to educate through to the end of high school children who are not lawfully in the U.S. This is a huge cost in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 per student per year but the parents of such students, by reason both of their status and the economic difficulties of earning a living without work authorization, are seldom going to be home owners and thus will seldom contribute to the cost of their children’s education, which is primarily funded by property taxes. The net result is an unfunded liability which is growing by leaps and bounds and which the federal government, needless to say, is not interested in reimbursing.

    The day has come when immigration activists and anti-immigration activists must unite and tell Congress, in Nixon’s crude admonition to Eisenhower over his role on the 1952 Republican Presidential ticket, to “piss or get off the pot”. We cannot continue to have a permanent underclass of people in the U.S. living and working in the U.S. without legal authority. They either need to be removed or granted legal status. And since forcible removal of literally tens of millions of people would involve a cost, both in funds and in the erosion of civil liberties, which would dwarf the entire “War on Terrorism”, when the issue is phrased in this manner, the solution becomes obvious.

    However, neither can we afford another Reagan-style amnesty in which all the bold promises about securing the borders and enforcing the laws are promptly forgotten. We must make a firm decision as a nation never to let this happen again. Immigration laws must be hereafter enforced both at the border and in the interior. We lawyers should lead the way in demanding that the rule of law to be respected by everyone. Furthermore, we need to reaching out to those frustrated by the federal government’s destructive dithering on this issue, not sneering at them.

  • Tony Weigel

    Mr. Piston,

    I strongly disagree with your comment that AILA members can find common ground with Kris Kobach and his allies. To him, we are “open border crazies.” If you want more of his rhetoric, you can listen to his weekly show or his podcasts at If you can find some common ground there, please be sure to let us know. I have spoken at public hearings where Kobach’s allies have been present. If you had seen the looks that could kill from the local Minutemen supporting Kobach’s side, I believe you would think differently.

    In his world, immigration is inherently evil and a closed border is the only answer, regardless of it is termed a reduction in immigration, a moritorium, or an “immigration time out.” In response to the open hatred I have experienced, I am fine with a little sneering in return when it involves elected officials choosing to adopt costly, dead-end policies that target people on the basis of foreign appearance.

    Like most, I believe the answer lies in, among other things, reducing the rhetorical “magnet” of employment by re-engineering the I-9 process while providing a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants.

    I look forward to reading of your findings.


    Tony Weigel

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