SFALP Clinic Contributes to Lawsuit on Sanctuary Cities


Students in Yale Law School’s San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) were instrumental in filing the first lawsuit against the Trump administration’s executive order on “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The lawsuit, filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera on January 31, 2017, claims 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.

SFALP partners with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to bring civil rights and consumer protection litigation.

SFALP students played a key role in bringing the lawsuit. The students worked tirelessly in recent weeks researching legal theories, developing facts, and participating in strategic decisions alongside the team from the City Attorney’s Office. Students were actively involved at every stage of the process and helped finalize the complaint in the hours leading up to the filing.

“The students worked around the clock, as did the city attorneys,” said Professor Heather Gerken, who leads the SFALP clinic. “The suit is extraordinary given its importance, but it’s also SFALP at its most ordinary, as it reflects a deep and productive partnership that has existed for over a decade.”

Herrera’s lawsuit comes after President Trump issued an executive order on January 25, 2017 announcing that it would seek to deprive “sanctuary jurisdictions” of federal grants. San Francisco receives over $1.2 billion a year in federal funding, most of which goes to health care, nutrition, and other safety net programs. This lawsuit is the first in the nation to challenge this specific executive order.

“The complaint puts it best: Cities are safer when all residents, documented or undocumented, feel comfortable reporting crimes, seeking medical care, and sending their children to school,” said Emma Sokoloff-Rubin ’18.

She added, “I've never felt as certain of my decision to become a lawyer as I do today. Law can't unilaterally solve anything, but wielded alongside other forms of resistance, it's an extraordinarily powerful force.”

 “Growing up in a sanctuary city, I've seen how important immigrant communities are to health of the city as a whole, so this lawsuit feels incredibly personal,” said Marissa Roy ’17. “This fight is about protecting our most at-risk residents as well as maintaining our cities' identities as welcoming and open-minded. I'm so thrilled to help San Francisco stand up for the liberty of all cities. We need to be fighting the unconstitutional actions of this administration in every capacity.”

Now that the lawsuit has been filed, SFALP students will continue to serve as active members of the litigation team.

The San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) is a partnership between Yale Law School and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. SFALP students work with San Francisco Deputy City Attorneys to conceive, develop, and litigate some of the most innovative public-interest lawsuits in the country—lawsuits that tackle problems with local dimensions but national effects. SFALP has worked on a wide variety of issues, including consumer protection, nuisance abatement, wage theft, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, reproductive rights, Internet privacy, healthcare, housing, environmental protection, fairness in arbitration, childhood health and nutrition, payday lending, and access to legal services for immigrants.