October 15, 2018 / 7:24 PM / in a month

Chicago sues Sessions (again) over sanctuary policy, claims ‘bad faith’ evasion of injunction

(Reuters) - The city of Chicago has already won a permanent injunction against the Justice Department's 2017 policy of conditioning certain law enforcement grants on compliance with the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Last July, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber of Chicago granted summary judgment in Chicago’s suit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, holding that DOJ’s attempt to force the city to abandon its so-called sanctuary policy was both unconstitutional and unlawful under the statute governing grant awards.

But according to a new complaint by Chicago’s lawyers at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, the attorney general flouted Judge Leinenweber’s injunction and reimposed virtually the same unlawful, unconstitutional conditions on 2018 grants. The city’s new suit, filed in federal court in Chicago, alleges that Sessions demonstrated “bad faith and an attempt to undermine or avoid this court’s permanent injunction” when he again refused to grant Chicago money through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program because, according to Chicago, the city refuses to bow to the federal government’s immigration policies.

“Once again, his sole justification is his disagreement with Chicago’s policy choices,” the suit said. “He does so in the face of this court’s explicit ruling last year that his conditions are unlawful and that the harms to Chicago are irreparable and cannot be remedied by later payment of the funds at issue.” Chicago alleges that it has received more than $2 million in Byrne funding in each of the past two fiscal years, although its 2017 grant came only after a year of litigating its original challenge to the Justice Department’s policy of imposing immigration-related conditions on the funds.

The city also contends that the attorney general should be on the hook for its fees and costs. According to the suit, Judge Leinenweber warned AG Sessions in the last incarnation of the litigation that if he reimposed unlawful restrictions on Byrne grants, “attorney’s fees would likely be appropriate.”

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The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Chicago’s new suit.

You may recall that Chicago’s sanctuary city litigation was poised to be the attorney general’s long-sought opportunity to challenge nationwide injunctions, in which a single trial judge enjoins the government in jurisdictions across the country. After a three-judge 7th Circuit panel upheld a preliminary injunction from Judge Leinenweber, the 7th Circuit agreed to consider en banc the scope of the judge’s preliminary order. The argument was scheduled to take place in September.

In August, however, the 7th Circuit vacated the grant of en banc rehearing for procedural reasons, concluding that Judge Leinenweber’s issuance of a permanent injunction “all but evaporated” the preliminary order. The Justice Department has appealed the permanent injunction but that appeal has not yet reached a three-judge panel. The permanent injunction also bars enforcement of DOJ’s anti-sanctuary policy nationwide, but Judge Leinenweber stayed enforcement of the ban for all jurisdictions except Chicago, which was the only plaintiff in the 2017 case. Chicago is also the only plaintiff in the new suit.

In August, a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit affirmed a San Francisco judge’s permanent injunction barring the Justice Department from conditioning loans on adherence to Sessions’ immigration policies, though the appellate court also vacated the nationwide injunction, holding that the record in the sanctuary cities case was not sufficiently developed to justify an order blocking DOJ’s funding policy for jurisdictions beyond California. 

The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News.

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