SFALP Case on Sanctuary Cities Secures Permanent National Injunction

San Francisco City Hall, Photographed by Mike Hofmann.

A federal judge in California has permanently blocked the Trump administration from denying funding to sanctuary cities, a major victory for Yale Law clinic students who worked closely with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office in filing the case.

Students from the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) at Yale Law School worked with the City Attorney’s Office to file the case in January 2017. It was the first case in the nation to challenge the federal executive order on “sanctuary jurisdictions” and secured a temporary nationwide injunction in April that was made permanent on November 20, 2017. The lawsuit argued that the Trump administration’s order directing enforcement action against sanctuary cities and threatening to withhold funding from these cities is unconstitutional and exceeds the President’s power. In his ruling Monday, Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California sided with the City Attorney’s Office and SFALP students.

SFALP partners with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to bring civil rights and consumer protection litigation. It is a unique and innovative model that has produced incredibly successful results over the course of more than a decade.

In the sanctuary city case, students in SFALP researched legal theories, developed facts, and participated in strategic decisions alongside the team from the City Attorney’s Office. Students were actively involved at every stage of this process and helped finalize the complaint in the hours leading up to the filing.

“The court made one thing very clear: the president may not unilaterally impose his policy preferences on states and cities," said Jeremy Pilaar '18. "The Constitution vests federal spending authority in Congress. By threatening to withhold billions from localities with which the president disagrees, the Trump administration violated the separation of powers at the foundation of our democracy.”

“I am incredibly proud of the work SFALP did to combat President Trump’s unconstitutional executive order," added Emma Sokoloff-Rubin '18. "Our team worked around the clock to ensure that the nation’s founding laws were upheld.”

Professor Heather Gerken, the Dean of Yale Law School who also leads the SFALP clinic, said it was amazing that students had the opportunity to work on the “case of a lifetime” at the beginning of their legal careers.

“The entire clinic took part at some point during the litigation,” said Gerken. “We are so proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the ruling was a victory for the American people and the rule of law.

"This executive order was unconstitutional before the ink on it was even dry,” said Herrera. “This president and his administration have been trying to twist facts, stoke fears and demonize immigrants to score cheap political points…It’s time for this administration to stop trying to divide our schools, our neighborhoods and our country.”

- Photo: "San Francisco City Hall 2" by Sanfranman59 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.