June 12, 2019
IRLI shows court lacked jurisdiction to block
WASHINGTON – In case after case, massively-funded anti-borders activist groups around the country have joined with the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in trying to block President Trump from building a border wall using funds transferred, according to law, from existing appropriated funds. In the federal district court of the Northern District of California, the groups recently got their first success: an Obama-appointed judge determined that one transfer of funds did not comply with military appropriations statutes, and enjoined it. The federal government has appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and asked the court for an immediate stay – that is, a suspension – of the injunction until the appeal is decided, most likely months from now. This week the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Congressman Andy Barr (KY) in support of that immediate stay.
In its brief, IRLI zeroes in on a glaring jurisdictional problem that the parties missed. Plaintiffs are environmental groups who claim the border wall will harm their aesthetic interests in enjoying a pristine environment and different kinds of wildlife. IRLI argues that while this injury might give them standing to sue under the National Environmental Protection Act (which does not apply to the border wall), it does not give them standing to sue under military appropriations statutes. To make claims under a statute in court, a plaintiff has to show that the violation of the statute injured that plaintiff in a way that has something to do with the statute. Since military appropriations statutes have nothing to do with aesthetics or the environment, aesthetic injuries do not confer standing to sue under them. And if a party lacks standing, the court lacks jurisdiction, and cannot issue an injunction.
“The anti-borders groups are spending their funders’ money creatively here, that’s for sure, but they can’t get around a basic problem,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Simply put, military appropriations statutes do not protect peoples’ aesthetic sensibilities from being offended by military construction projects. The district court should have thrown this case out, and we hope the Ninth Circuit quickly issues a stay letting the administration get back to building the wall. If not, we will fight to get an emergency stay in the Supreme Court.”
The case is Sierra Club v. Trump, No. 19-16102 (Ninth Circuit).
For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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