County of Santa Clara Leads National Coalition in Support of Lawsuit Blocking Trump Administration’s Unlawful Efforts to Withhold Federal Law Enforcement Grants
County’s Amicus Brief Challenges U.S. Department of Justice’s Unconstitutional Attempt to Dictate Local Law Enforcement Policy
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. — Today, the County of Santa Clara filed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The brief, authored by the Office of the County Counsel on behalf of 43 cities, counties, and municipal agencies, and three major associations of local governments and officials nationwide, urges the Court to uphold a permanent injunction that blocks the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) from enforcing unlawful federal grant conditions announced in 2017.
The DOJ conditions target the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which is the leading source of federal grant funding for state and local law enforcement, correctional, prosecution, indigent defense, and victim/witness programs. The lower court concluded that DOJ could not lawfully mandate that state and local governments receiving these grant funds assist the federal government with immigration enforcement. The County’s brief argues that the nationwide injunction should be upheld because DOJ’s unlawful conditions undermine basic constitutional principles that allow local law enforcement agencies to exercise their own judgments about how best to keep their communities safe, and because they are contrary to the purpose of the Byrne JAG program, which is intended to support flexible responses to the diverse needs of local communities around the country.
“Local governments must have the flexibility to adopt the law enforcement policies that are right for their communities,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. “Local law enforcement officials here and around the country have adopted policies that keep immigrants out of the shadows, protect their right to due process and make our entire community safer.”
“President Trump and his Administration continue to make wrongheaded and unlawful decisions,” added Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams. “Threatening to withhold federal funding to coerce local communities to serve this Administration’s policy goals is not only unwise, it is unconstitutional. We will keep fighting to uphold these basic principles that our nation’s founders so carefully crafted.”
The cases are San Francisco v. Barr, No. 18-17308 and California v. Barr, No. 18-17311 (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). The County filed a similar amicus brief in support of the City and County of San Francisco’s motion for an injunction with the lower court. The lower court cited the County’s brief in support of its decision to apply the preliminary injunction nationwide. The cities, counties, and national organizations that joined the County of Santa Clara in the filing are:
County of Alameda, California; City of Albany, California; City of Albuquerque, New Mexico; City of Baltimore, Maryland; City of Berkeley, California; City of Boulder, Colorado; City of Burlington, Vermont; City of Cambridge, Massachusetts; City of Chelsea, Massachusetts; City of Chicago, Illinois; City of Chula Vista, California; County of Contra Costa, California; City of Davis, California; City of Dayton, Ohio; City and County of Denver, Colorado; International City/County Management Association; International Municipal Lawyers Association; City of Iowa City, Iowa; City of Ithaca, New York; King County, Washington; City of Lawrence, Massachusetts; City of Los Angeles, California; County of Los Angeles, California; City of Madison, Wisconsin; Metropolitan Area Planning Council; City of Minneapolis, Minnesota; County of Monterey, California; City of Morgan Hill, California; National League of Cities; City of New York, New York; City of Northampton, Massachusetts; City of Oakland, California; City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; City of Portland, Oregon; City of Providence, Rhode Island; City of Sacramento, California; City of Salinas, California; City of San José, California; City of Santa Ana, California; County of Santa Cruz, California; City of Santa Fe, New Mexico; County of Santa Fe, New Mexico; City of Seattle, Washington; City of Somerville, Massachusetts; City of Tucson, Arizona.
About the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office
The County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the County, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, every County department and agency, and the County’s boards and commissions. With a staff of over 200, the Office is also responsible for all civil litigation involving the County and its officers. Through its Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, the Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops policies and programs to advance social and economic justice.
About the County of Santa Clara, California
The government of the County of Santa Clara serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents – the most populous in Northern California. With a $7 billion annual budget, dozens of offices/departments, and over 20,000 employees, the County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many others.
About the Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section
The Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section within the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops new policies and programs to advance the County’s goal of achieving social and economic justice for all its residents. The Section also defends the County in select cases with the potential to significantly affect the County’s ability to provide critical safety net services to vulnerable residents. The Section is part of a growing movement to use the power and unique perspective of local government to better serve the community and to drive long-lasting change at the local, state, and national levels.