Colorado v. U.S. Dep't of Justice

Citation455 F.Supp.3d 1034
Decision Date23 April 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 19-cv-00736-JLK
Parties The State of COLORADO, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, and William Pelham Barr, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the United States, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Colorado

Eric R. Olson, Leslie Carol Schulze, Patrick L. Sayas, William V. Allen, Kathleen L. Spalding, Colorado Attorney General's Office, Denver, CO, for Plaintiff.

Daniel D. Mauler, Joseph J. DeMott, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


Kane, J.

This case concerns the ability of Defendant the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") to attach certain immigration-related conditions to federal grant funds provided to state and local law enforcement under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant ("Byrne JAG") program. Plaintiff the State of Colorado ("Colorado" or "the State") received Byrne JAG funding every year from the program's inception through 2017. For the 2018 fiscal year ("FY"), however, DOJ refused to disburse these funds to Colorado after the State objected to conditions and certifications related to the enforcement of federal immigration law. Colorado filed suit, joining a host of other state and local governments that have challenged DOJ's immigration-related grant conditions as unlawful.

Colorado's Amended Complaint charges that the FY 2018 immigration-related conditions and certifications (the "challenged conditions") on Byrne JAG grants unconstitutionally violate separation of powers principles, the Spending Clause, and the Tenth Amendment, and are also unlawful for multiple reasons under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). See Am. Compl., ECF No. 31. DOJ and Defendant Attorney General William Barr move to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (Defs.’ Mot., ECF No. 26). Colorado, in turn, moves for summary judgment in its favor on all counts and seeks declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief (Pl.’s Mot., ECF No. 35).

Congress crafted the Byrne JAG program as a means of supporting local law enforcement. By imposing conditions on Byrne JAG grants for which it has no statutory authority, DOJ has exceeded the power carefully delegated to it by Congress to administer that program. For the reasons detailed below, I find the challenged conditions unlawful. Accordingly, I grant Colorado's motion and deny DOJ's motion.

A. The Byrne JAG Program

Congress enacted the Byrne JAG program in its current form through the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005. See Pub. L. No. 109-162, § 1111, 1119 Stat. 2960, 3094 (2006) (codified as amended at 34 U.S.C. §§ 10151 - 10158 ). The Byrne JAG program is administered through DOJ's Office of Justice Programs ("OJP"). The OJP oversees other federal law enforcement grant programs and is headed by its Assistant Attorney General, although the Attorney General has final authority over all OJP functions and grants. See id. §§ 10101 - 10102, 10110, 10141, 10151.

The purpose of the Byrne JAG program is to support state and local criminal justice efforts by providing an additional source of funding for personnel, equipment, training, and other needs. Id. § 10152(a)(1). Grant recipients may spend Byrne JAG funds to support criminal justice initiatives in eight program areas: law enforcement; prosecution and court; crime prevention and education; corrections and community corrections; drug treatment and enforcement; technology; mental health; and victim and witness services. Id. § 10152(a)(1)(A)-(H).

Congress established a detailed statutory formula for allocating Byrne JAG funds to states and localities. "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." City of Providence v. Barr , 954 F.3d 23, 27 (1st Cir. 2020) (citations omitted). Congress appropriates a certain amount to the Byrne JAG program annually, and under the formula, that appropriation is divided among states based on population and violent crime statistics. 34 U.S.C. § 10156. A state or local government must apply annually to DOJ to receive its share of funding. Id. § 10153(a).1 Up to sixty percent of a state's allocation goes to the state government, and no less than forty percent goes to local governments within the state. See id. § 10156(b) - (c). Once awarded its statutory share of funds, a state may also make subawards to local governments and community organizations, which act as subgrantees. Id. § 10152(b).

Although Byrne JAG funds must be allocated according to the statutory formula, DOJ retains some discretion to reserve and redistribute certain funds. See id. §§ 10156(f), 101057. For example, DOJ may reserve up to $20 million of Congress's annual appropriation to assist local law enforcement in modernizing technology and another $20 million to fund antiterrorism training programs. Id. § 10157(a). DOJ may also reserve up to five percent of the annual appropriation for grants to address "precipitous or extraordinary increases in crime" or "significant programmatic harm resulting from operation of the formula." Id. § 10157(b).

The Attorney General has limited authority to monitor and review program and financial information as well. For example, programs receiving Byrne JAG funds must have an "assessment component, developed pursuant to guidelines established by the Attorney General ..." Id. § 10152(c). In addition, grant recipients must "maintain and report such data, records, and information (programmatic and financial) as the Attorney General may reasonably require[,]" id. § 10153(a)(4), and certify that Byrne JAG funds "will not be used to supplant State or local funds." Id. § 10153(a)(1).

DOJ has historically required Byrne JAG applicants to accept and satisfy a number of "special conditions," which largely relate to the recipient's administration of the grant. See City of Philadelphia v. Attorney Gen. of the U.S. , 916 F.3d 276, 280 (3d Cir. 2019) ("Historically, the OJP has included a number of conditions on the application ..., most of which relate to program integrity or impose requirements for the handling of federal funds."); see also 34 U.S.C. § 10153(a). Some conditions "require that recipients that use their funding for certain purposes (including purchasing police equipment and developing training materials) adhere to federal guidelines[,]" and recipients must meet federal information technology, financial management, and nondiscrimination requirements. City of Providence , 954 F.3d at 28.

B. DOJ's Immigration-Related Goals and the Challenged Conditions

The challenged conditions were spurred by the Attorney General's determination that state and local policies and practices of withholding cooperation from federal immigration authorities were frustrating the federal government's immigration goals. See Backgrounder on Grant Requirements, AR 00993, ECF No. 25-15. In 2017, the Attorney General announced that DOJ would award Byrne JAG grants only to jurisdictions that share certain immigration-related information with federal immigration agencies, allow access to local detention facilities, and provide notice before releasing certain aliens as requested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). See July 25, 2017 DOJ Press Release, AR 00992, ECF No. 25-15. DOJ has continued to impose these and other immigration-related conditions on the receipt of Byrne JAG funding.

For FY 2018 Byrne JAG grants, DOJ imposed the following "special conditions" related to federal immigration enforcement:

Notice Condition: The recipient (in this case, Colorado) and its subgrantees must provide 48 hours’ "advance notice," or as much advance notice as is "practicable," of the "scheduled release date and time" of any alien in the jurisdiction's custody if the jurisdiction receives a "formal written request" from DHS. Grant Award Special Conditions ¶ 46, at 21, ECF No. 35-4. This condition incorporates 8 U.S.C. §§ 1226, 1231, and 1366, which relate to the powers and duties of federal immigration authorities. The recipient is required to monitor its subgrantees’ compliance with this condition.
Access Condition: The recipient and its subgrantees are prohibited from "impeding access to any State or local government ... correctional facility by [federal] agents for the purpose [of] interrogating any alien or person believed to be an alien as to his or her right to be or to remain in the United States." Grant Award Special Conditions ¶ 45, at 20. This condition incorporates 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a), under which certain federal immigration authorities have the power to interrogate illegal aliens or persons believed to be illegal aliens. The recipient is required to monitor its subgrantees’ compliance with this condition.
Compliance Condition: Each Byrne JAG applicant must comply with 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373 and 1644. Grant Award Special Conditions ¶¶ 41-42, at 16-17. These statutes prohibit state and local government entities from restricting communications with federal immigration authorities regarding citizenship or immigration status.2 The recipient must monitor itself and its subgrantees for compliance with this condition and certify that there are no restrictions on information-sharing about the citizenship or immigration status of any individuals. This is also referred to as the "certification" condition by some courts.
Harboring Condition: This condition prohibits public disclosure of "federal law enforcement information in a direct or indirect attempt to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection any fugitive from justice ... or any alien who has come to, entered, or remains in the United States" in violation of federal law. Grant Award Special Conditions ¶ 44, at 19; see alsoCity & Cty. of San Francisco v. Sessions ,

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