City of Philadelphia v. Attorney General of the United States — civil — partial affirmance — Rendell
In a stinging loss for the Trump administration that they’ll surely ask the Supreme Court to review, the Third Circuit today rejected the Attorney General’s effort to deny federal grant money to Philadelphia in an effort to coerce the city into help federal law-enforcement “detain and remov[e] aliens upon their release from local criminal custody.” The court held that the AG lacked statutory authority to set policy conditions on the grant money:
Underlying this question, and potentially complicating its resolution, is the stark contrast in the priorities of the City and those of the Executive Branch regarding immigration policy. In resolving the discrete legal question before us, however, we make no judgment as to the merits of this policy dispute. Rather, our role is more confined, and our focus is only on the legality of the particular action before us.
Concluding that Congress did not grant the Attorney General this authority, we hold that the Challenged Conditions were unlawfully imposed.
Today’s ruling was a disaster for the Trump administration’s attack on sanctuary cities. The only sliver of good news for the administration was that the panel vacated the district court’s requirement for a judicial warrant to transfer a “criminal alien” to federal custody, holding that this injunction went beyond the bounds of the complaint.
My crystal ball says that the government is certain to ask the Supreme Court to grant certiorari, and that they’re quite unlikely to have the votes for rehearing en banc.
Joining Rendell were Ambro and Scirica. Arguing counsel were Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells for the city and Katherine Allen for the government. Video of the oral argument—the best Third Circuit oral argument I’ve ever seen—is in my argument-compilation post here.