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Sierra Club v. Trump

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

November 12, 2019, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; June 26, 2020, Filed

Nos. 19-16102, 19-16300


 [*879]  THOMAS, Chief Judge:

We consider in this appeal challenges by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition ("SBCC")2 to the Department of Defense's budgetary transfers  [*880]  to fund construction of the wall on the southern [**9]  border of the United States in California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Specifically, we consider whether Section 8005 and Section 9002 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2019, Pub. L. No. 115-245, 132 Stat. 2981 (2018) ("Section 8005")3 authorized the budgetary transfers. In a companion appeal, State of California, et al. v. Trump et al., Nos. 19-16299 and 19-16336, we considered similar challenges filed by a collective group of States. However, because Sierra Club asserts different legal theories, and this case, when presented, was in a different procedural posture, we treat this appeal separately. We conclude that the transfers were not authorized, and that plaintiffs have a cause of action. We affirm the judgment of the district court.

We recounted the essential underlying facts in the companion case. However, we briefly outline them here for convenience of reference.

The President has long supported the construction of a border wall on the southern border between the United States and Mexico. Since the President took office in 2017, however, Congress has repeatedly declined to provide the amount of funding requested by the President.

The debate over border wall funding came to a head in December of 2018. During negotiations to pass an appropriations [**10]  bill for the remainder of the fiscal year, the President announced that he would not sign any legislation that did not allocate substantial funds to border wall construction. On January 6, 2019, the White House requested $5.7 billion to fund the construction of approximately 234 miles of new physical barrier.4 Budget negotiations concerning border wall funding reached an impasse, triggering the longest partial government shutdown in United States history.

After 35 days, the government shutdown ended without an agreement to provide increased border wall funding in the amount requested by the President. On February 14, 2019, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 ("CAA"), which included the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019, Pub. L. No. 116-6, div. A, 133 Stat. 13 (2019). The CAA appropriated only $1.375 billion for border wall construction, specifying that the funding was for "the construction of primary pedestrian fencing . . . in the Rio Grande Valley Sector." Id. § 230(a)(1). The President signed the CAA into law the following day.

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963 F.3d 874 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20310 **; 2020 WL 3478900

SIERRA CLUB; SOUTHERN BORDER COMMUNITIES COALITION, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. DONALD J. TRUMP, in his official capacity as President of the United States; MARK T. ESPER, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Defense; CHAD F. WOLF, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; STEVEN TERNER MNUCHIN, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Defendants-Appellants.

Subsequent History: Petition for certiorari filed at, 08/07/2020

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 4:19-cv-00892-HSG. Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr., District Judge, Presiding.

Sierra Club v. Trump, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108933 (N.D. Cal., June 28, 2019)Sierra Club v. Trump, 379 F. Supp. 3d 883, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88210 (N.D. Cal., May 24, 2019)


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