Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Sanctuary Cities Fight

56 Cities and Counties Ask 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to Affirm District Court’s Nationwide Injunction Against Trump Administration’s Executive Order Threatening Withdrawal of Funds from “Sanctuary” Jurisdictions

Fifty-six cities and counties across the country have filed an amicus brief asking a federal appeals court to uphold the U.S. District Court’s late 2017 nationwide injunction against the Trump Administration’s Executive Order that threatened local governments with “defunding” if they failed to cooperate with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the administration’s satisfaction.

In November 2017, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick issued an order permanently blocking the President’s executive order attempting to cut federal funding from cities that restrict cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. Judge Orrick spurned administration arguments that the sought-for executive order only applied to a small portion of federal monies and was therefore not an improper limit on funds already approved by Congress. “President Trump might be able to tweet whatever comes to mind, but he can’t grant himself new authority because he feels like it,” the judge said in a statement.

The administration appealed Judge Orrick’s decision, and the case is now under review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Lieff Cabraser contributed to the amicus brief, and previously contributed to a series of briefing efforts in the federal courts on behalf of dozens of cities and counties seeking to support lawsuits filed by the municipalities in attempts to halt the executive order from impermissibly intruding on the independence of local governments. The list has now grown to 56 cities and counties, representing as the brief notes “the interconnected web of local governments that span our nation.” As the brief states:

A cut in funding to any jurisdiction results in greater burdens on the services provided by other jurisdictions. Amici therefore have an interest in addressing this Court on the importance of maintaining the nationwide injunction in this case. Amici also have an interest in maintaining control over a core realm of local governance—the setting of enforcement priorities for local police and sheriff’s departments—consistent with the federalism principles inherent in our Constitution. The Executive Order threatens these basic Constitutional protections in a manner uniform to Amici.

The cases are City and County of San Francisco v. Donald Trump, No. 17-17478 (N.D. Cal.) and County of Santa Clara v. Donald Trump, No. 17-17480 (N.D. Cal.).

The coalition of concerned local governments appear as amici curiae (“friends of the court”). The cities and counties argue that the Executive Order impermissibly intrudes on the independence of local governments by threatening to withhold funding authorized by Congress if they do not follow the President’s unilateral instructions. They say that the loss of funding would risk public health and safety, and would shift the federal government’s unpaid tab to local residents. Some amici, for example, have concluded that victims of domestic violence or witnesses to crime will leave crimes unreported rather than risk going to local authorities if they face a risk of detention by federal immigration authorities.

Notably, the coalition includes many cities and counties who do not consider themselves to be “sanctuaries,” but who nevertheless agree the Executive Order is unlawful and unconstitutional. All amici agree that local authorities, not distant federal officials, should be making policy judgments that affect the interests and safety needs of their local communities. Local governments are responsible for the health and safety of their residents, from fighting crime and fires, preparing for natural or medical disasters, providing clean drinking water, maintaining streets and sidewalks, removing trash, and building and maintaining parks, among many other public services. Because of their crucial role and on-the-ground experience, they, not the President, should decide how to deploy their limited resources.

The coalition’s brief asks the Appeals Court to uphold the District Court’s injunction against enforcement of the Order nationwide, not just in the County of Santa Clara and the City and County of San Francisco, because a cut in funding to one city or county results in greater burdens on the services provided by nearby jurisdictions, and increased risks to public safety broadly. While the amici are not parties to this litigation, they believe that their combined experience and position will aid the Court in coming to a just constitutional ruling.

The cities, towns, and municipalities that have joined the amici coalition are:

City of Albany, New York
City of Austin, Texas
City of Berkeley, California
City of Cathedral City, California
City of Chelsea, Massachusetts
City of Chicago, Illinois
City of Cincinnati, Ohio
City of Davis, California
City and County of Denver, Colorado
City of Eugene, Oregon
City of Fremont, California
City of Gary, Indiana
City of Hyattsville, Maryland
City of Ithaca, New York
City of Lansing, Michigan
City of Lawrence, Massachusetts
City of Los Angeles, California
City of Madison, Wisconsin
City of Malibu, California
City of Menlo Park, California
City of Minneapolis, Minnesota
City of Morgan Hill, California
Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Tennessee
City of New Haven, Connecticut
City of New Orleans, Louisiana
City of Newark, New Jersey
City of Oakland, California
City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
City of Portland, Oregon
Town of Portola Valley, California
Municipality of Princeton, New Jersey
City of Providence, Rhode Island
City of Sacramento, California
City of Saint Paul, Minnesota
City of Salinas, California
Salt Lake City, Utah
City of Santa Ana, California
City of Santa Clara, California
City of Santa Cruz, California
City of Santa Fe, New Mexico
City of Santa Monica, California
City of Seattle, Washington
City of Somerville, Massachusetts
City of Trenton, New Jersey
City of Tucson, Arizona
City of Union City, New Jersey
City of West Hollywood, California

The counties that have joined the amici coalition are:

County of Alameda, California
Cook County, Illinois
King County, Washington
County of Los Angeles, California
County of Marin, California
County of Monterey, California
County of Santa Cruz, California
County of Sonoma, California
Travis County, Texas

A copy of the brief is available for reading here.