Last Thursday, the City of Seattle won a legal round in its case against the Trump Administration over its “sanctuary city” policy when the judge overseeing the case denied the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the case.
As you may recall, in May the Attorney General published a memo interpreting Trump’s Executive Order. A few days later, the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the memo was the authoritative legal interpretation of the Executive Order and clarifies things to the point where the City of Seattle no longer has standing to sue. The motion further argued that the city had not suffered an “injury in fact” so its case was not ripe for adjudication.
In his order last Thursday, Judge Richard Jones disagreed with the DOJ across the board. First and foremost, he found that the Attorney General’s memo is not a legal interpretation but instead is guidance on enforcement and implementation of the executive order, and thus is not a “binding authority” for the purposes of interpreting the legality of the Executive Order. He further ruled that the city has a “well-founded fear of enforcement,” which the US government has already begun, and thus the city has standing to sue and the matter is indeed ripe for adjudication.
Jones went on to provide preliminary views on the city’s claims and found sufficient cause to believe that the Executive Order would violate the 10th Amendment’s anti-commandeering rule and its Spending Clause, and it would also violate the separation of power by usurping legislative authority to place conditions on funding that Congress appropriated.
After denying the motion to dismiss the case, Jones did note that a very similar case is being tried in the District of Northern California, and asked for briefs from both parties as to whether the city’s case should be stayed until that case is resolved. Briefs on that issue are due by October 29th.
There is no word yet as to whether the US Government will appeal the order.