Sierra Club v. Trump, No. 19-17501 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The emergency military construction authority provided by 10 U.S.C. 2808 does not authorize eleven border wall construction projects on the southern border of the United States.
The Organizational Plaintiffs and the State Plaintiffs filed separate actions challenging the Federal Defendants' anticipated diversion of federal funds to fund border wall construction pursuant to various statutory authorities, including Section 2808. The Federal Defendants timely appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and declaratory relief to Sierra Club and the States and the grant of a permanent injunction to Sierra Club. The States timely cross-appealed the denial of their request for a permanent injunction.
The Ninth Circuit held that the States and Sierra Club both have Article III standing and a cause of action to challenge the Federal Defendants' border wall construction projects; Section 2808 did not authorize the challenged construction where the projects are neither necessary to support the use of the armed forces nor are they military construction projects; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in either granting a permanent injunction to Sierra Club or in denying a separate permanent injunction to the States. Although the panel recognized that in times of national emergency the panel generally owes great deference to the decisions of the Executive, the particular circumstances of this case require it to take seriously the limitations of the text of Section 2808 and to hold the Executive to them. The panel stated that where, as here, Congress has clung to this power with both hands—by withholding funding for border wall construction at great effort and cost and by attempting to terminate the existence of a national emergency on the southern border on two separate occasions, with a majority vote by both houses—the panel can neither pry it from Congress's grasp.