Could the Sanctuary City Case stop the overreach of local judges

The ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Case Should Make Courts Stop Issuing National Rules For Local Cases

Chicago’s ‘sanctuary’ cities case offers an important opportunity to challenge a dangerous practice of relatively recent advent: granting a nationwide injunction in a local dispute.

The Federalist
Margot Cleveland
January 18, 2018

On Friday, the Department of Justice heads to the 27th Floor of the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago to defend its August 2017 decision to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary” cities. There, the DOJ will argue to a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that a lower court erred in ruling that the U.S. attorney general lacks the authority to condition grants on Chicago agreeing to provide federal agents access to jails to question criminal aliens and to notify the Department of Homeland Security before releasing aliens from custody.

On the merits, the DOJ should lose. As I explained earlier this week, Congress did not provide the attorney general this authority.

Nonetheless, City of Chicago vs Sessions offers the DOJ an important opportunity to challenge a dangerous practice of relatively recent advent: granting a nationwide injunction in a local dispute. In the case, the nationwide injunction issued by semi-retired district court judge Harry Leinenweber enjoined the federal government from withholding grant funds, not just from the Windy City, but from all sanctuary cities throughout the United States.

This Is a Bad and Increasingly Frequent Practice

Leinenweber’s decision is not a one-off. Last week, in its comprehensive exposé, “DACA Question: Should Judges Use Local Cases to Halt National Orders?,” The New York Timesnoted that judge “William Alsup of the Northern District of California in San Francisco, used a local case to impose a nationwide stop on Mr. Trump’s order to end a program that protects young undocumented immigrants in the United States.”

The DOJ announced on Tuesday that it will seek immediate review of that decision before the U.S. Supreme Court, bypassing the intermediate Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court has already reversed a nationwide injunction from a federal district court judge in Hawaii that barred enforcement of Trump’s travel ban, so the DOJ appears hopeful that the justices will do so again.

However, these cases are but the most recent examples of the now-increasing practice of granting nationwide injunctive relief. Using nationwide injunctions began with the Obama administration’s governance by pen and phone, and continued with the ensuing erasure by the ideological opposites guiding the Trump administration. Judges on both sides of the political spectrum have been issuing nationwide injunctions “as a tool to combat perceived executive overreach.”

But conservatives dedicated to the rule of law reject this approach, seeing nationwide injunctive relief a tool of judicial activism. When the government’s lawyer takes to the podium on Friday morning, the DOJ will push the appellate court to, at a minimum, limit the lower-court’s injunctive relief to the party before it—Chicago.

Here, expect the DOJ attorney to parrot some of the remarks Attorney General Jeff Sessions made during a speech to the Heritage Foundation last year:

-Judges have the solemn responsibility to examine the law impartially.-

“Judges have the solemn responsibility to examine the law impartially. The Judiciary is not a superior or policy-setting branch. It is co-equal. Those who ignore this duty and follow their own policy views erode the rule of law and create bad precedents and, importantly, undermine the public respect necessary for the courts to function properly. This is especially problematic when district courts take the dramatic step of issuing activist nationwide injunctions—orders that block the entire United States government from enforcing a statute or a presidential policy nationwide. Scholars have not found a single example of any judge issuing this type of extreme remedy before the 1960s. But today, more and more judges are issuing these lawless nationwide injunctions and in effect single judges are making themselves super-legislators for the entire United States. We have nearly 600 federal district judges in the United States—each with the ability to issue one of these overreaching nationwide orders.”

That makes the need for judges to stick to the law even more important. A single judge’s decision to enjoin the entire federal government from acting is an extreme step, and too often, district courts are doing it without following the law. Exercising this awesome power because of a political disagreement is all the more unacceptable. The Constitution gives judges no right to veto a President’s actions because they disagree with him on policy grounds.

Sessions is correct, but understated. Nationwide injunctive relief exacerbates the already prominent practice of forum shopping—filing a lawsuit in a friendly venue—and places too much authority in a single judge. Further, the immediate effects of a nationwide injunction force the Supreme Court to enter the fray sooner, and without the benefit of a methodical development of legal thought, to the detriment of the high court’s decision-making.

Courts Should Adopt the Bray Principle

But platitudes and prudential principles will only go so far. The question remains: Is nationwide injunctive relief available? That is the issue the Seventh Circuit will face on Friday, and eventually one the Supreme Court must resolve.

In resolving this issue, the courts would be well-served to adopt the view of University of California at Los Angeles School of Law Professor Samuel L. Bray, as laid out in his December 2017 Harvard Law Review article. Bray concludes:

A federal court should give a plaintiff-protective injunction, enjoining the defendant’s conduct only with respect to the plaintiff.

“A federal court should give a plaintiff-protective injunction, enjoining the defendant’s conduct only with respect to the plaintiff. No matter how important the question and no matter how important the value of uniformity, a federal court should not award a national injunction. This rule, if adopted by the courts or by Congress, would alleviate the forum-shopping problem. It would restore the percolation of legal questions through different courts of appeals, allowing each circuit to reach its own conclusion pending resolution by the Supreme Court. And it would nearly eliminate the risk of directly conflicting injunctions.”

Under the Bray Rule, then, if Chicago prevails on the merits it would be entitled to an injunction preventing the federal government from pulling grants from Chicago, but other sanctuary cities would still risk losing their funding. Those cities would need to file a separate suit or join to file a class-action suit…

As Bray explained, “With a national injunction, if one plaintiff wins there is a remedy for everyone, but if the same plaintiff loses there is no effect. It’s like the case never happened. By contrast, the class action has the right symmetry: win or lose, the result binds the entire class.”

Bray’s analysis is sound.

Bray’s analysis is sound. The Constitution’s Article III establishes the constitutional limits of the federal judiciary and, as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence, nationwide injunctive relief cannot withstand scrutiny. While a legal system based on “Heads, I win; tails, it’s a Mulligan” might provide good odds when your political opponent resides in the Oval Office, the better bet is on the rule of law.

Read the whole article HERE. (emphasis is mine)


Valid point and article.  When a plantiff comes to court it should be the plantiff that receives the decision. In a case where a criminal is given a sentence — only the criminal is the one receiving punishment, not any others that might be involved. Each one is tried on his own merit. 

Having lower courts stop federal country-wide actions willy nilly without all of the reasoning and intel behind their action is an overreach of local authority. It actually says that no one has the right to supercede the lower court even the Supreme Court in its decision making process. Yet that is exactly what has happened over the immigration and sanctuary city issues.

The liberal judges who handed down such sweeping decisions need to be removed from the bench and decisions on all their cases reviewed.

The Supreme Court needs to slap a stinging reminder to all lower court judges on lawful procedure and that it is the final authority.  Courts are supposed to make decisions based as much as possible on a non-biased, non-partisan basis. Otherwise we get the same rampant disregard for race, gender, or ethnicity bias in a trial or a number of other instances of bias in the past which we should have long ago ended.

Lower courts follow the rule of law on the merits of the individual case and those specifically involved. The legal profession has far too often abused the class action rule and now the judges are doing the same. They have gone too far.

Just a reminder from my post yesterday–congress went to great lengths in 1700’s to make sure of the President’s authority on immigration most especially if there is a national security issue such as war.

1798 – Naturalization Act, Alien Friends Act, and Alien Enemies Act – all three for the first time gave the PRESIDENT rights in Immigration that today liberal judges across the land are attempting to undermine. With no sunset — has authorized the president to apprehend and deport resident aliens if their home countries were at war with the United States of America. Enacted July 6, 1798, and providing no sunset provision, the act remains intact today as [ 50 U.S.C. § 21 – 50 U.S. Code § 21 – Restraint, regulation, and removal]

An Act Concerning Aliens.

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be lawful for the President of the United States at any time during the continuance of this act, to order all such aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States, or shall have reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government thereof, to depart out of the territory of the United Slates, within such time as shall be expressed in such order, which order shall be served on such alien by delivering him a copy thereof, or leaving the same at his usual abode, and returned to the office of the Secretary of State, by the marshal or other person to whom the same shall be directed.


Article I, Section 8, clause 4 of the Con­stitution entrusts the federal legislative branch with the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.”

In 1884, with a decision in the Head Money Cases, the Court for the first time upheld a federal regulation of immigration, also on Com­merce Clause grounds. From that time on, the Court upheld federal immigration regula­tions against constitutional challenges, although the underlying rationale shift­ed.

oh and here is one that also applies: Naturalization Act of 1790

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, that the children of persons duly naturalized, dwelling within the United States, and being under the age of twenty-one years, at the time of such naturalization, and the children of citizens of the United States, born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, shall be considered as citizens of the United States: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons, whose fathers have never been resident of the United States: Provided also, That no person heretofore proscribed by any state, or who has been legally convicted of having joined the army of Great Britain during the late war, shall be admitted a citizen as foresaid, without the consent of the legislature of the state, in which such person was proscribed.

[now that one is interesting on several fronts though it may have been amended over the years (no reference) but clearly shows the intent of citizenship I think.]


About Uriel

Retired educator and constitutionalist
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9 Responses to Could the Sanctuary City Case stop the overreach of local judges

  1. Wise Owl says:

    Excellent post, Uriel! Thank you!

  2. Whitetop says:

    Uriel you are absolutely correct in that judges who exceed their constitutional authority need to be removed from the bench and all their decisions review. What we need are a few members of congress with the spine to bring impeachment proceedings against these judges. It probably would clean out the Ninth District which wouldn’t be all bad. Those judges who filed injunctions against President Trumps orders on immigration should now be working as greeters at their local Walmart and not making legal decisions. Let’s get back to the rule of law.

    • Uriel says:

      I agree Whitetop but I am not really sure of procedure needed to get them kicked into the river. Sure does need to be done though.

      • Whitetop says:

        There are certain judges the president can fire but I don’t know which ones. Remember Clinton fired all 92 when he came into office but Bush didn’t fire any of them until later when he fired 7 or 8 judges and it created a stink by the crafty demos. I think circuit court judges can only be fired by impeachment by congress. Alsee Hastings was impeached which highly qualified him to serve as a democrat representative in congress.

        Wish I knew the procedure but I’m a product of the public school system even if it was back in the days when they used mimeograph machines and white chalk on black boards.

        • Uriel says:

          Every judge appointed to such a court may be categorized as a federal judge; such positions include the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, Circuit Judges of the courts of appeals, and district judges of the United States district courts. Apparently after a complaint has been lodged the the Chief Justice sets up a panel of justices to review the case. Then the steps are similar to impeaching a President..first House then Senate. Oddly this is the one really murky area – removal of judges. Constitution Law Reporter

        • Uriel says:

          Article II, Section 4 contains some vague guidelines for what warrants impeachment proceedings – and this section relates to federal officials in general – Article Three only explains that judges are supposed to remain in office only while in “good Behavior.”

  3. SafeSpace says:

    Thorough research, Uriel. I wonder what progress can be made in the direction Bray suggests, as long as we have cowards in the Congress, pretending to “represent” the citizenry.

    • Uriel says:

      Thanks to Federalst we have the info. I honestly have no idea or legal training to know how to push it.