A Washington DC district court judge tossed out a lawsuit brought by House Democrats seeking to halt President Trump's reallocation of funds for a southern border wall.
Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that the matter is fundamentally political and Democrats lack standing to bring a legal case.
In February, Trump declared a national emergency over the flood of migrants at the southern border which have overwhelmed the US immigration system. Shortly after, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democrats filed their lawsuit, claiming that Trump was "stealing from appropriated funds" and would be in violation of the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution. The politicians contended that this constituted an "institutional injury" to the separation of powers.
McFadden, a Trump appointee and former DOJ official, disagreed - writing in his opinion: "This case presents a close question about the appropriate role of the Judiciary in resolving disputes between the other two branches of the Federal Government. To be clear, the court does not imply that Congress may never sue the Executive to protect its powers," adding "The Court declines to take sides in this fight between the House and the President."
"This is a case about whether one chamber of Congress has the “constitutional means” to conscript the Judiciary in a political turf war with the President over the implementation of legislation. ... [W]hile the Constitution bestows upon Members of the House many powers, it does not grant them standing to hale the Executive Branch into court claiming a dilution of Congress’s legislative authority. The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction to hear the House’s claims and will deny its motion."
— Judge Trevor McFadden
Attorney Will Chamberlain, co-founder of Human Events, suggested in January that Trump declare a national emergency at the southern border - and broke down why Democrats would lose a challenge over lack of standing.
4 months ago— Will Chamberlain 🇺🇸 (@willchamberlain) June 4, 2019
McFadden's opinion focused on two guiding Supreme Court rulings he called "lodestars," a 2015 case between the Arizona State legislature and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and the 1997 case Raines v. Byrd.
"Read together, Raines and Arizona State Legislature create a spectrum of sorts," McFadden wrote. "On one end, individual legislators lack standing to allege a generalized harm to Congress’s Article I power. On the other end, both chambers of a state legislature do have standing to challenge a nullification of their legislative authority brought about through a referendum."
But, McFadden quickly distinguished the Arizona State Legislature case, which found institutional standing for legislators only in a limited instance. The Arizona case, the judge noted, "does not touch or concern the question whether Congress has standing to bring a suit against the President," and the Supreme Court has found there was "no federal analogue to Arizona’s initiative power." -Fox News
McFadden also noted that Democrats still have the power to modify or even repeal an appropriations law if they wish to "exempt future appropriations" from the Trump administration.
"Congress has several political arrows in its quiver to counter perceived threats to its sphere of power," wrote McFadden. "These tools show that this lawsuit is not a last resort for the House. And this fact is also exemplified by the many other cases across the country challenging the administration's planned construction of the border wall."
"The House retains the institutional tools necessary to remedy any harm caused to this power by the Administration’s actions. Its Members can, with a two-thirds majority, override the President’s veto of the resolution voiding the National Emergency Declaration. They did not. It can amend appropriations laws to expressly restrict the transfer or spending of funds for a border wall under Sections 284 and 2808. Indeed, it appears to be doing so."
As noted by Fox News, McFadden's ruling contrasted with an injunction issued by Obama-appointed US District Court Judge Hawyood Gilliam last week, who blocked the Trump administration from using the reallocated funds for specific areas in Arizona and Texas.