California v. Trump

Decision Date24 May 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 19-cv-00872-HSG
Citation379 F.Supp.3d 928
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California
Parties State of CALIFORNIA, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Donald J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants.

Christine Chuang, California Department of Justice, Oakland, CA, Lee Isaac Sherman, California Department of Justice, Los Angeles, CA, Edward Henry Ochoa, Michael Phillip Cayaban, Ofc Attorney General, San Diego, CA, Heather Colleen Leslie, Attorney General's Office Dept. of Justice, Sacramento, CA, James F. Zahradka, II, California Department of Justice Bureau of Children's Justice, Oakland, CA, Janelle M. Smith, California State Attorney General's Office, San Francisco, CA, Eric Reuel Olson, Pro Hac Vice, Office of the Attorney General, Denver, CO, Margaret Chapple, Connecticut Attorney General's Office Administration, Hartford, CT, David Jay Lyons, Pro Hac Vice, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE, Clyde James Wadsworth, Dept. of the Attorney General, Honolulu, HI, Susan P. Herman, Pro Hac Vice, Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, ME, Jacob Daniel Campion, Pro Hac Vice, Office of Minnesota Attorney General, Saint Paul, MN, Jeremy Feigenbaum, Pro Hac Vice, New Jersey Attorney Generals Office, Trenton, NJ, Matthew L. Garcia, Governor's General Counsel, Tania Maestas, Pro Hac Vice, NM Office of the Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, Heidi Parry Stern, Pro Hac Vice, Office of the Nevada Attorney General, Las Vegas, NV, Matthew Colangelo, Pro Hac Vice, Amanda Meyer, Pro Hac Vice, Gavin Geraghty McCabe, New York State Office of Attorney General, New York, NY, Henry Kantor, Pro Hac Vice, Jeanne Nicole DeFever, Oregon Department of Justice, Portland, OR, Brittany Marie Jones, Pro Hac Vice, Michelle S. Kallen, Office of the Attorney General, Richmond, VA, Caleb Andrew Rush, Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, Jeffrey Paul Dunlap, Pro Hac Vice, Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, MD, B. Eric Restuccia, Pro Hac Vice, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Lansing, MI, Gabe Johnson-Karp, Pro Hac Vice, Madison, WI, Abigail Taylor, Pro Hac Vice, Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Boston, MA, Benjamin Daniel Battles, Pro Hac Vice, Office of the Attorney General, Montpelier, VT, Justin James Sullivan, Pro Hac Vice, Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, Providence, RI, for Plaintiffs.

Andrew Irwin Warden, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Eric Grant, James Mahoney Burnham, United States Department of Justice, Elizabeth B. Wydra Constitutional Accountability Center Washington, DC for Defendants.


Re. Dkt. No. 59

HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR., United States District Judge

On February 18, 2019, a coalition of sixteen states filed suit against Defendants Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States; the United States; the U.S. Department of Defense ("DoD"); Patrick M. Shanahan, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of Defense; Mark T. Esper, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Army; Richard V. Spencer, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Navy; Heather Wilson, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Air Force; the U.S. Department of the Treasury; Steven T. Mnuchin, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Department of the Treasury; the U.S. Department of the Interior; David Bernhardt, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior1 ; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"); and Kevin K. McAleenan, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security2 (collectively, "Federal Defendants"). Dkt. No. 1. The next day, Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition (collectively, "Citizen Group Plaintiffs" or "Citizen Groups") brought a related suit against many, but not all, of the same Federal Defendants. See Complaint, Sierra Club v. Trump , No. 4:19-cv-00892-HSG, (N.D. Cal. Feb. 19, 2019), ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs here filed an amended complaint on March 13, 2019, with the state coalition now constituting twenty states (collectively, "Plaintiff States" or "States"). See Dkt. No. 47 ("FAC").

Now pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, briefing for which is complete. See Dkt. Nos. 59 ("Mot."), 89 ("Opp."), 112 ("Reply"). The Court held a hearing on this motion on May 17, 2019. See Dkt. No. 159. In short, Plaintiffs seek to prevent executive officers from using redirected federal funds for the construction of a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border.

It is important at the outset for the Court to make clear what this case is, and is not, about. The case is not about whether the challenged border barrier construction plan is wise or unwise. It is not about whether the plan is the right or wrong policy response to existing conditions at the southern border of the United States. These policy questions are the subject of extensive, and often intense, differences of opinion, and this Court cannot and does not express any view as to them. See Trump v. Hawaii , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 2392, 2423, 201 L.Ed.2d 775 (2018) (indicating that the Supreme Court "express[ed] no view on the soundness of the policy" at issue there); In re Border Infrastructure Envtl. Litig. , 284 F.Supp.3d 1092, 1102 (S.D. Cal. 2018) (noting that the court "cannot and does not consider whether underlying decisions to construct the border barriers are politically wise or prudent"). Instead, this case presents strictly legal questions regarding whether the proposed plan for funding border barrier construction exceeds the Executive Branch's lawful authority under the Constitution and a number of statutes duly enacted by Congress. See In re Aiken Cty. , 725 F.3d 255, 257 (D.C. Cir. 2013) ("The underlying policy debate is not our concern....Our more modest task is to ensure, in justiciable cases, that agencies comply with the law as it has been set by Congress.").

Assessing whether Defendants' actions not only conform to the Framers' contemplated division of powers among co-equal branches of government but also comply with the mandates of Congress set forth in previously unconstrued statutes presents a Gordian knot of sorts. But the federal courts' duty is to decide cases and controversies, and "[t]hose who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule." See Marbury v. Madison , 1 Cranch 137, 177, 2 L.Ed. 60 (1803). Rather than cut the proverbial knot, however, the Court aims to untie it—no small task given the number of overlapping legal issues. And at this stage, the Court then must further decide whether Plaintiffs have met the standard for obtaining the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction pending resolution of the case on the merits.

After carefully considering the parties' arguments, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion.3


A preliminary injunction is a matter of equitable discretion and is "an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief." Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc. , 555 U.S. 7, 22, 129 S.Ct. 365, 172 L.Ed.2d 249 (2008). "A plaintiff seeking preliminary injunctive relief must establish that [it] is likely to succeed on the merits, that [it] is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in [its] favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Id. at 20, 129 S.Ct. 365. Alternatively, an injunction may issue where "the likelihood of success is such that serious questions going to the merits were raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in [the plaintiff's] favor," provided that the plaintiff can also demonstrate the other two Winter factors. All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell , 632 F.3d 1127, 1131–32 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Under either standard, Plaintiffs bear the burden of making a clear showing that they are entitled to this extraordinary remedy. Earth Island Inst. v. Carlton , 626 F.3d 462, 469 (9th Cir. 2010). The most important Winter factor is likelihood of success on the merits. See Disney Enters., Inc. v. VidAngel, Inc. , 869 F.3d 848, 856 (9th Cir. 2017).


In the pending motion, Plaintiffs seek to enjoin Defendants from using certain diverted federal funds and resources for border barrier construction. Specifically, Plaintiffs move to enjoin Defendants from: (1) invoking Section 8005's reprogramming authority to channel funds into DoD's drug interdiction fund, (2) invoking Section 284 to divert monies from DoD's drug interdiction fund for border barrier construction on the southern border of New Mexico, (3) invoking Section 9705 to divert monies from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund for border barrier construction,4 and (4) taking any further action related to border barrier construction until Defendants comply with NEPA.

Defendants oppose each basis for injunctive relief. Defendants further contend that (1) the Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their Sections 8005 and 9705 claims, and (2) the Court is not the proper venue to challenge border barrier construction in New Mexico. The Court addresses these threshold issues first before turning to Plaintiffs' individual bases for injunctive relief.

A. Article III Standing

A plaintiff seeking relief in federal court bears the burden of establishing "the irreducible constitutional minimum" of standing. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547, 194 L.Ed.2d 635 (2016) (quoting Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) ). First, the plaintiff must have "suffered an injury in fact." Id. This requires "an invasion of a legally protected interest" that is concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent, rather than conjectural or hypothetical. Lujan , 504 U.S. at 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130 (internal quotation marks omitted). Second, the plaintiff's injury...

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