City of Providence v. Barr

Decision Date24 March 2020
Docket NumberNo. 19-1802,19-1802
Parties CITY OF PROVIDENCE and City of Central Falls, Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. William P. BARR, in his official capacity as United States Attorney General, and the United States Department of Justice, Defendants, Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Brian H. Pandya, Deputy Associate Attorney General, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, with whom Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Aaron L. Weisman, United States Attorney, and Daniel Tenny and Brad Hinshelwood, Attorneys, Appellate Staff, were on brief, for appellants.

Jeffrey Dana, City Solicitor, with whom Megan Maciasz DiSanto, Senior Assistant City Solicitor, and Etie-Lee Z. Schaub, Associate City Solicitor, were on brief, for appellee City of Providence.

Matthew Jerzyk, City Solicitor, for appellee City of Central Falls.

Peter F. Neronha, Attorney General of Rhode Island, Michael W. Field, Assistant Attorney General, Letitia James, Attorney General of New York, Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Anisha S. Dasgupta, Deputy Solicitor General, Eric R. Haren, Special Counsel, Linda Fang, Assistant Solicitor General, Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, Phil Weiser, Attorney General of Colorado, William Tong, Attorney General of Connecticut, Kathleen Jennings, Attorney General of Delaware, Kwame Raoul, Attorney General of Illinois, Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland, Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, Dana Nessel, Attorney General of Michigan, Keith Ellison, Attorney General of Minnesota, Aaron D. Ford, Attorney General of Nevada, Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General of New Jersey, Hector Balderas, Attorney General of New Mexico, Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General of Oregon, Thomas J. Donovan, Jr., Attorney General of Vermont, Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General of Washington, and Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, on brief for states of New York, Rhode Island, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington and the District of Columbia, amici curiae.

Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt, New York, NY, Cody Wofsy, San Francisco, CA, Spencer E. Amdur, My Khanh Ngo, American Civil Liberties Union, Mark Fleming, Katherine E. Melloy Goettel, National Immigrant Justice Center, Nicholas Trott Long, Providence, RI, and ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island on brief for American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, Washington Defender Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, amici curiae.

Before Barron, Circuit Judge, Souter,* Associate Justice, and Selya, Circuit Judge.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

After a number of state and local governments refused to assist in federal enforcement of certain immigration-related laws, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) purposed to condition some unrelated federal law enforcement grants on the provision of such assistance. Unwilling to retreat from their so-called "sanctuary" laws and policies, several state and local governments pushed back. A rash of litigation ensued, and a circuit split has now developed. Compare New York v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 951 F.3d 84, 123-24 (2d Cir. 2020) (upholding grant conditions imposed by the DOJ), with City of Philadelphia v. Attorney Gen., 916 F.3d 276, 279 (3d Cir. 2019) (invalidating such conditions). The case at hand requires us to take sides in this circuit split.

To put the critical issues into perspective, it helps to revisit the genesis of the underlying suit. Two affected Rhode Island municipalities—Providence and Central Falls (collectively, the Cities)—are among the state and local governmental entities that decided to resist the DOJ's actions. To that end, they repaired to the federal district court and sought to invalidate the conditions that the DOJ had imposed on grant funds allocated to them. The district court ruled in the Cities' favor, see City of Providence v. Barr, 385 F. Supp. 3d 160 (D.R.I. 2019), and the DOJ appealed.1

At the time the parties appeared for oral argument before us, three courts of appeals had refused to enforce some or all of the challenged conditions. See City of Los Angeles v. Barr, 941 F.3d 931, 934 (9th Cir. 2019) ; City of Philadelphia, 916 F.3d at 279 ; City of Chicago v. Sessions, 888 F.3d 272, 287 (7th Cir.), reh'g en banc granted in part on other grounds, vacated in part on other grounds, No. 17-2991, 2018 WL 4268817 (7th Cir. June 4, 2018), reh'g en banc vacated, No. 17-2991, 2018 WL 4268814 (7th Cir. Aug. 10, 2018). After oral argument, the plot thickened: the Second Circuit upheld all of the challenged conditions, see New York, 951 F.3d at 123-24, thus creating a circuit split. We have carefully considered the district court's useful rescript, the comprehensive briefs of the parties and the amici, the DOJ's kitchen-sink-full of clever legal arguments, and the thoughtful but conflicting views of sister circuits. At the end of the day, we conclude that the DOJ's reach exceeds its grasp; it lacked authority to impose the challenged conditions. Consequently, we affirm the judgment below.


For simplicity's sake, we bifurcate our statement of the relevant background. First, we trace the anatomy of the grant program that underlies this litigation. Second, we sketch the origins and travel of the case.

A. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Congress established the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG) in 2006 through the merger of two preexisting grant programs. See Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-162, § 1111, 119 Stat. 2960, 3094 (2006); see also 34 U.S.C. § 10151. Byrne JAG provides grants to state and local governments for personnel, equipment, training, and other uses connected with certain criminal justice programs. See 34 U.S.C. § 10152(a)(1). To be eligible for Byrne JAG funding, a program must fall within the reach of eight broad categories, including "[l]aw enforcement programs," "[c]orrections and community corrections programs," and "[c]rime victim and witness programs." Id.

The DOJ administers Byrne JAG funding through its Office of Justice Programs (OJP), which also oversees other federal law enforcement grant programs. See id. §§ 10101, 10110. A Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General (Assistant AG) heads the OJP, even though the Attorney General retains ultimate authority over the OJP's functions. See id. The statute that authorizes the OJP directs the Assistant AG to engage in various information-sharing, liaison, and coordination duties. See id. § 10102(a)(1)-(5). The Assistant AG also must "exercise such other powers and functions as may be vested in the Assistant Attorney General pursuant to this chapter or by delegation of the Attorney General, including placing special conditions on all grants, and determining priority purposes for formula grants." Id. § 10102(a)(6).

Importantly, Congress structured Byrne JAG as a formula grant program. Rather than exercising its own discretion as to which jurisdictions receive grants and in what amounts, the DOJ is obliged to distribute funding pursuant to a statutory formula. See id. §§ 10152(a)(1), 10156 ; see also City of Los Angeles v. McLaughlin, 865 F.2d 1084, 1088 (9th Cir. 1989) (describing difference between formula and discretionary grant programs). The Byrne JAG formula divides Congress's annual appropriation among states based on their relative populations and rates of violent crime (with each state receiving a minimum of one-quarter of one percent of the total). See 34 U.S.C. § 10156(a). Of the funding allocated to a given state, up to sixty percent goes to the state government and no less than forty percent goes to localities within the state. See id. § 10156(b) - (c). Relative rates of violent crime determine the allocation of funds among localities. See id. § 10156(d)(2)(A). No local government may receive a Byrne JAG grant that is larger than its "total expenditures on criminal justice services for the most recently completed fiscal year for which data are available." Id. § 10156(e)(1).

Congress has allowed a carefully circumscribed number of deviations from this formula.

Pertinently, the DOJ may reallocate up to five percent of Congress's total appropriation for special grants to address "precipitous or extraordinary increases in crime" or "significant programmatic harm resulting from operation of the formula." Id. § 10157(b). So, too, the DOJ may retain up to $20 million to help local governments upgrade their law enforcement technology and another $20 million to fund antiterrorism training programs. See id. § 10157(a). In addition, Congress has authorized the DOJ to withhold a small percentage of a Byrne JAG grant if the designated recipient fails to comply with certain specified federal law-enforcement-related mandates. These mandates include requirements that states establish a sex offender registry, see id. § 20927(a) (mandatory ten percent reduction), provide records to a national criminal background check database, see id. § 40914(b)(2) (mandatory five percent reduction), and report the deaths of individuals in custody, see id. § 60105(c)(2) (discretionary reduction of up to ten percent).

To receive its share of funding, a state or local government must apply annually to the DOJ. See id. § 10153(a). The applicant's proffer must make certain certifications and assurances concerning the application and the programs for which the applicant seeks funding. See id. For example, each applicant must provide "[a]n assurance that, for each fiscal year covered by an application, [it] shall maintain and report such data, records, and...

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