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El Paso County v. Trump

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

December 10, 2019

DONALD J. TRUMP, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America, et al., Defendants.



         On October 11, 2019, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion granting Plaintiffs El Paso County, Texas, ("El Paso County") and Border Network for Human Rights's ("BNHR") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") "Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the alternative, a Preliminary Injunction" ("Motion for Summary Judgment") and denying Defendants[1] Donald J. Trump, Mark T. Esper, Chad F. Wolf, David Bernhardt, Steven T. Mnuchin, William Barr, John F. Bash, and Todd T. Semonite's (collectively, "Defendants") "Cross-Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment, and Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and a Preliminary Injunction." Mem. Op., ECF No. 129. Therein, the Court ordered Plaintiffs to file a proposed preliminary injunction specifying the scope of said injunction and Defendants were given an opportunity to respond. Id. at 33.

         On this day, the Court considered Plaintiffs' "Supplemental Brief Addressing Scope of Remedy" ("Plaintiffs' Supplemental Brief) filed in the above-captioned case on October 21, 2019. ECF No. 130. The Plaintiffs were granted leave to file an Amended Proposed Order on October 24, 2019. ECF No. 132. On October 28, 2019, Defendants filed their "Supplemental Brief Addressing Scope of Remedy" ("Defendants' Supplemental Brief). ECF No. 134. After due consideration, the Court is of the opinion that a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction shall be granted in Plaintiffs' favor.


         On October 11, 2019, this Court held that Plaintiffs had standing to sue Defendants. Mem. Op. 32, ECF No. 129. Further, it held that because the Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States ("the Proclamation") seeks additional funds for border barrier funding in violation of the 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act ("CAA") generally and § 739 of the CAA specifically, it is unlawful. Id.

         In its opinion, the Court requested that Plaintiffs "file a proposed preliminary injunction specifying the scope of said injunction." Id. at 33. In Plaintiffs' Supplemental Brief, Plaintiffs ask the Court to:

(1) issue a declaratory judgment that the Proclamation is unlawful to the extent it authorizes border wall construction using funds appropriated by the CAA for "military construction" under 10 U.S.C. § 2808, and that Defendants' use of funds appropriated by the CAA for "military construction" under 10 U.S.C. § 2808 and "support for counterdrug activities" under 10 U.S.C. § 284 funds on building a border wall is unlawful; and
(2) permanently enjoin Defendants Esper, [Wolf], Semonite, Bernhardt, and Mnuchin ("the agency head Defendants") from using funds appropriated by the CAA for "military construction" under § 2808 and "support for counterdrug activities" under § 284 on building a border wall.

Pis.' Supp. Br. 5-6, ECF No. 130.

         Defendants counter in their Supplemental Brief that the Court should decline to enter an injunction and should exclude the Proclamation from the Court's declaratory relief. Defs.' Supp. Br. .1, 2-3, ECF No. 134. Alternatively, if the Court did enter any injunctive relief, Defendants argue that it should enter an administrative stay pending appeal. Id. at 13-14. The Court disagrees with Defendants and will not stay its decision to permanently enjoin their use of § 2808 funds for border barrier funding, though it will not extend this injunction to § 284 funds.


         To obtain any injunction, a plaintiff must show:

(1) that [they have] suffered an irreparable injury;
(2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury;
(3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and
(4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.

Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, 561 U.S. 139, 156-58 (2010); see also, e.g., eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006), and Winter[2] v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 32-33 (2008). "[I]njunctive relief is a drastic remedy, not to be applied as a matter of course." O 'Donnell v. Harris Cty., 892 F.3d 147, 155 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting Marshall v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 554 F.2d 730, 733 (5th Cir. 1977)) (internal quotations omitted).

         Injunctive relief never "follow[s] from success on the merits as a matter of course," Winter, 555 U.S. at 32, and, "[a]s with any equity case, the nature of the violation determines the scope of the remedy." Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklemburg Bd. of Ed., 402 U.S. 1, 16(1971). As such, an injunction "should be no more burdensome to the defendant than necessary to provide complete relief." Califano v. Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 702 (1979); see also John Doe #1 v. Veneman, 380 F.3d 807, 818 (5th Cir. 2004) ("The district court must narrowly tailor an injunction to remedy the specific action which gives rise to the order.").

         Furthermore, "[t]he existence of another adequate remedy does not preclude a declaratory judgment that is otherwise appropriate." Fed.R.Civ.P. 57. A declaratory judgment is appropriate when it will "terminate the controversy" giving rise to the proceeding. Fed.R.Civ.P. 57 advisory committee's 1937 note. It is within the discretion of a trial court to grant declaratory relief on motion of party. Delno v. Market St. R. Co., 124 F.2d 965, 967 (9th Cir. 1942) (citing § 6 of the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act).


         To begin, Plaintiffs argue that the Court should issue a declaratory judgment that the Proclamation's invocation of § 2808 and the Defendants' use of §§ 2808 and 284 funds on the border wall are unlawful. Pls.' Supp. Br. 2, ECF No. 130. This declaratory judgment and the permanent injunction would only need to issue against the agency head Defendants, rather than the President himself. Id. at 2 n. 1.

         Next, Plaintiffs assert that a permanent, rather than preliminary, injunction should issue to stop the agency head Defendants from using these funds for border wall construction because the Court's grant of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment was a final judgment ending the litigation on the merits. Id. at 3. Finally, Plaintiffs go through the permanent injunction factors and describe how they meet each. Id. at 4-7.

         In response, Defendants call Plaintiffs' requested injunction overbroad and unjustified because Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate irreparable injury and the Government's compelling interests in constructing border barriers outweigh the Plaintiffs' interests. Defs.' Supp. Br. 1, ECF No. 134. And Defendants claim that Plaintiffs' proposed injunction conflicts with the Supreme Court's recent order staying an injunction that the District Court for the Northern District of California entered. Id. at 1-2 (citing Trump v. Sierra Club, 140 S.Ct. 1 (2019)). Finally, Defendants argue that the Proclamation should be excluded from the Court's declaratory judgment as there is no basis for such extraordinary relief that would necessarily run against President Trump in his official capacity. Id. at 2-3.

         Because both sides and the Court agree that any declaratory judgment shall not run against the President, the Court does not address the merits of this argument. Instead, the Court discusses the merits of a declaratory judgment against the agency head Defendants. Then, because the Court's injunction § 2808 funds does not conflict with Supreme Court precedent, the Court weighs the permanent injunction factors to conclude that a permanent injunction shall be ...

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