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Case Name Center for Biological Diversity v. Trump PR-DC-0014
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-00408 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Presidential Authority
Special Collection Take Care
Case Summary
This case addresses the expansion of the southern border wall, a major controversy during the Trump presidency.

On February 16, 2019, three non-profit organizations—the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund—who defend wildlife and ... read more >
This case addresses the expansion of the southern border wall, a major controversy during the Trump presidency.

On February 16, 2019, three non-profit organizations—the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund—who defend wildlife and habitats along the southern border, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The case was assigned to Judge Trevor N. McFadden. The plaintiffs, represented by their internal counsel, sued President Trump, along with all Secretaries that deal with the U.S. borders, under the Declaratory Judgment Act. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment stating that the Emergency Proclamation issued by the President on February 15, 2019 was unlawful and an injunction preventing the reallocation of funds to construct a southern border wall.

As relevant background, from December 21, 2018-January 25, 2019, the federal government was shut down. The shutdown was the result of months of disagreement between the President and Congress over the administration’s $5.7 billion demand for a border wall. Several times during the shutdown and several times after the shutdown ended, the President publicly mentioned that he might declare a national emergency if the administration could not reach an agreement with Congress about border wall funding, describing the declaration as something he had an “absolute right” to do under the National Emergencies Act.

When the President issued the Emergency Proclamation declaring a national emergency at the southern border on February 15, he said at a press conference that same day, “I could do the wall over a longer period of time—I didn’t need to do this—but I would rather do it much faster. … I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.” The President then directed the reallocation of up to $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, $3.6 billion in unspent funds appropriated for military construction projects, and up to $2.5 billion in unspent funds appropriated for support for counterdrug activity support, towards border wall construction.

The plaintiffs claimed that the President’s issuance of this Emergency Proclamation violated several federal laws. First, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants exceeded the scope of their authority under:
1. The National Emergencies Act, because the President’s own statements and the totality of surrounding circumstances show that the proclamation was made as a political negotiating tactic, not a valid “emergency” as Congress intended under the NEA.
2. 10 U.S.C. §2808 (Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or national emergency), because the statute did not provide for the transfer of emergency funds from military construction to border wall construction.
3. 10 U.S.C. §284 (Support for counterdrug activities and activities to counter transnational organized crime), because this statute is intended to authorize non-emergency military support to domestic law enforcement and does not provide for emergency funding for border wall construction.
4. 31 U.S.C. §9705 (Department of the Treasury forfeiture fund), because the specific categories of funding for which the Secretary of Treasury has discretion to allocate funds do not cover border wall construction.

Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution by unlawfully reallocating money without Congressional approval, and that the defendants had violated the Take Care Clause of the Constitution by failing to comply with the requirements and limitations of federal law.

On April 2, 2019, the defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing either that the Court lacked jurisdiction or, alternatively, that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim. As of April 6, 2019, the court has not addressed the motion.

Sara Stearns - 04/06/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Commerce Power
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Immigration/Border
Border wall
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) President Donald Trump
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary of the Department of Treasury
Secretary of the Interior
Plaintiff Description Three non-profit organizations -- Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Legal Defense Fund -- who defend wildlife and habitats along the southern border
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:19-cv-00408 (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0014-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/02/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-DC-0014-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/16/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges McFadden, Trevor Neil (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Eliseuson, Anthony Thomas (Illinois) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-0001 | PR-DC-0014-9000
Sanerib, Tanya (Washington) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-0001 | PR-DC-0014-9000
Segee, Brian P. (California) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-0001 | PR-DC-0014-9000
Su, Anchun Jean (California) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-0001 | PR-DC-0014-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Vigen, Leslie Cooper (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-9000
Warden, Andrew Irwin (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0014-9000

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