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Case Name Washington v. DeVos PB-WA-0011
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-00182 ( E.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
This case was about the allocation of education funding for higher education institutions during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This case is very similar to another case of the same name filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. That case, which addressed ... read more >
This case was about the allocation of education funding for higher education institutions during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This case is very similar to another case of the same name filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. That case, which addressed COVID-19 education funding for K-12 schools, can be found here: PB-WA-0009.

Washington State filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (Spokane) on May 19, 2020. Defendants were the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) and its secretary, Betsy Devos. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Pub.L. 116–136, directed the DoED to distribute $100 million to Washington's higher education institutions. This money was to be used for emergency grants for students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The DoED, without explicit authorization from the CARES Act, set eligibility requirements citing Title IV of the Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. ch. 28 § 1001 et seq. These requirements included restricting students in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Basic Education for Adults, and Running Start Programs. Washington alleged that 85,000 students in Washington were denied this aid as a result. It asserted that the requirements were outside statutory authority, arbitrary and capricious agency action, and failed to follow required legal procedures, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. ch. 5, subch. I. It further asserted violation of separation of powers principles in Article I of the U.S. Constitution; and a violation of Article I’s Spending Clause for agency action usurping Congress’ authority. Washington sought declarative and injunctive relief to halt the DoED’s limits and distribution of funds in accordance with the CARES Act. They also sought attorney fees. Washington was represented by the Washington State Attorney General's Office while the DoED was represented by the Department of Justice. Judge Michelle L. Peterson was assigned.

Washington moved for a preliminary injunction on May 19, 2020. Washington made two primary arguments. First, that denying grants would irreparably harm students due to the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students had dropped out citing financial trouble. Second, that the CARES Act lacked any implicit or explicit delegation of rulemaking authority to the DoED. The CARES Act had delegated rulemaking authority to agencies elsewhere. The CARES Act never referenced eligibility requirements; this showed, Washington asserted, that the DoED’s actions were not aligned with Congress’ intent. The court granted Washington’s preliminary injunction on June 12, 2020. The DoED was enjoined from enforcing their eligibility requirements. 466 F.Supp.3d 1151.

The court denied Washington’s first motion for partial summary judgment on July 24, 2020. It found the CARES Act too ambiguous to discern Congressional intent to override the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which, per DoED, prevented CARES Act funds from being distributed to noncitizens. It attributed statutory inconsistencies cited by Washington to mere “inartful drafting[.]” 2020 WL 4275041.

Washington filed their first amended complaint on September 18, 2020. This included new ED materials concerning noncitizens that had been issued since the first complaint. This material was at issue in Washington’s denied motion for partial summary judgment.

Washington again moved for summary judgment on November 20, 2020. Washington cited similar preliminary injunctions obtained by California and Massachusetts. Defendants filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on January 8, 2021. They argued that their interpretation of the CARES Act’s ambiguity was reasonable, and that Washington’s constitutional claims lacked merit.

On June 21, 2021, the parties filed a joint stipulation of dismissal. The DoED, now led by a different secretary, had rescinded the eligibility requirements at issue. All parties would bear their own fees and costs. The case was dismissed without prejudice and closed on June 22, 2021.

Eric Gripp - 08/01/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
CARES Act (Covid-related)
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
COVID-19
Mitigation Granted
Mitigation Requested
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Education
Funding
Public assistance grants
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Education
Plaintiff Description The State of Washington.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2020 - 2021
Filed 05/19/2020
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PB-WA-0009 : Washington v. Devos (W.D. Wash.)
Court Docket(s)
E.D. Wash.
06/22/2021
2:20-cv-00182-TOR
PB-WA-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Wash.
05/19/2020
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-WA-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Wash.
06/12/2020
Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 31] (466 F.Supp.3d 1151)
PB-WA-0011-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Wash.
07/24/2020
Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF# 63] (2020 WL 4275041)
PB-WA-0011-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
E.D. Wash.
09/18/2020
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 69]
PB-WA-0011-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Rice, Thomas Owen (E.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-0002 | PB-WA-0011-0005 | PB-WA-0011-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Coates, Spencer W (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-0001 | PB-WA-0011-0003 | PB-WA-0011-9000
Crisalli, Paul Michael (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-0001 | PB-WA-0011-0003 | PB-WA-0011-9000
Ferguson, Robert W. (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-0001 | PB-WA-0011-0003
Simpson, R July (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-0001 | PB-WA-0011-0003 | PB-WA-0011-9000
Sprung, Jeffrey Todd (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-0001 | PB-WA-0011-0003 | PB-WA-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Sverdlov, Alexander V. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Other Lawyers Adams, Matthew (Matt) Hyrum (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Broder, Tanya (California) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Espiritu, Nicholas David (California) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Herrera, Kevin L. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Hinojosa, David G. (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Kim Pak, Sarah (California) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Maxey, Brian G. (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000
Torres, Genevieve Bonadies (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0011-9000

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