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CA1 on DOJ Overreach: City of Providence v. Barr

March 25, 2020 (1 min read)

City of Providence v. Barr

"After a number of state and local governments refused to assist in federal enforcement of certain immigration-related laws, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) purposed to condition some unrelated federal law enforcement grants on the provision of such assistance. Unwilling to retreat from their so-called "sanctuary" laws and policies, several state and local governments pushed back. A rash of litigation ensued, and a circuit split has now developed. ... Two affected Rhode Island municipalities — Providence and Central Falls (collectively, the Cities) — are among the state and local governmental entities that decided to resist the DOJ's actions. To that end, they repaired to the federal district court and sought to invalidate the conditions that the DOJ had imposed on grant funds allocated to them. The district court ruled in the Cities' favor, see City of Providence v. Barr, 385 F. Supp. 3d 160 (D.R.I. 2019), and the DOJ appealed. .... We have carefully considered the district court's useful rescript, the comprehensive briefs of the parties and the amici, the DOJ's kitchen-sink-full of clever legal arguments, and the thoughtful but conflicting views of sister circuits. At the end of the day, we conclude that the DOJ's reach exceeds its grasp; it lacked authority to impose the challenged conditions. Consequently, we affirm the judgment below. ... When the federal government deals with state and local governments, it must turn square corners. Here, the DOJ took an impermissible shortcut when it attempted to impose the challenged conditions on the Cities' FY2017 Byrne JAG grants — conditions that Congress had not vested the DOJ with authority to impose. Consequently, the judgment of the district court is Affirmed."