Latest Immigration Ruling Setback for Trump Administration

I’ve posted the ruling by Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S.D.C. for the Central District of California in Flores v. Barr. That case deals with the Trump Administration’s attempt to overturn the settlement agreement reach in 1997 dealing with the manner in which the INS may detain immigrants who are minors.

The Court enjoined the Trump Administration’s regulations, which would have abrogated the settlement agreement, and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the agreement. The concluding paragraph of the opinion sets forth the nub of the legal issue:

The blessing or the curse – depending on one’s vantage point – of a binding contract is its certitude. The Flores Agreement is a binding contract and a consent decree. It is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed. It is a creature of the parties’ own contractual agreements and is analyzed as a contract for purposes of enforcement. Defendants cannot simply ignore the dictates of the consent decree merely because they no longer agree with its approach as a matter of policy. The proper procedure for seeking relief from a consent decree is a Rule 60(b) motion by which a party must demonstrate that a change in law or facts renders compliance either illegal, impossible, or inequitable. Relief may also come from a change in law through Congressional action. Having failed to obtain such relief, defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this Court cannot permit.

Slip op. at 24.

An important point to note with respect to all district court opinions blocking Trump Administration actions from this point on. There’s only a little over thirteen months until November, 2020. Many of these cases will not be heard by the Supreme Court by January 20, 2021. Thus, if these district court opinions withstand review by the relevant circuit courts, a new administration can protect the rulings merely by failing to seek Supreme Court review or, if review has been sought by an outgoing Trump (or Pence) Administration, withdrawing the appeal in the Supreme Court.

Finally, I note that while Judge Gee’s ruling has been reported on by the mainstream media, this is the first link to the opinion other than via PACER. Another illustration of the value of the RBC.

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