We file an amicus brief in Supreme Court DACA case, defending nationwide injunctions

October 4, 2019 — The Public Interest Law Center, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the Mississippi Center for Justice filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of challengers in three consolidated cases challenging the Trump administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Read the full brief here.

DACA, established in 2012, is a federal program which allows undocumented young adults who came to the United States as children to apply for protection from deportation. This program has been used by 700,000 people. In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would end this program. This decision was met with three federal legal challenges filed California, the District of Columbia, and New York. The challengers argued that this decision was “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

As a result of these cases, three District Courts have issued nationwide injunctions barring the termination of the DACA program. The U.S Supreme Court agreed to review these legal challenges, consolidated as a single matter, on June 28, 2019, and oral argument will be held on November 12, 2019. The Law Center’s amicus brief concerns the use of nationwide injunctions, arguing that they have a long history of use in American courts and provide a way for courts to enforce and protect civil rights.

The amici provide evidence that broad injunctions were familiar to both English and American Courts around the time of American independence, and that equitable relief has never been limited to parties before the court. The amici further argue that nationwide injunctions are essential tools to enforce protections of the rights of vulnerable communities, citing examples from the Civil Rights Era, when plaintiffs often asked courts to apply their equitable authority broadly to end unconstitutional discrimination.

Nationwide injunctions provide a way for courts to enforce and protect civil rights

For instance, in Baily v. Patterson (1963), residents of Jackson, Mississippi challenged racial segregation in public accommodations and transportation, and the Fifth Circuit granted an injunction against the City and transportation companies, writing that “the very nature of the rights appellants seek to vindicate requires that the decree run to the benefit not only of appellants but also for all person similarly situated.”

“The power to grant equitable relief that applies beyond the parties before the court, through local, regional, or, indeed, national injunctions, is consistent with the scope of equitable powers recognized by English courts, American courts, and respected authorities, and is necessary to afford complete justice as a matter of equity,” the brief concludes.

The Law Center joined other Lawyers’ Committee affiliates to file a similar amicus brief in March 2019 defending the use of nationwide injunctions as a civil rights tool in an unrelated case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The brief supported Pennsylvania and New Jersey in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and State of New Jersey v. Donald J. Trump et al., a case challenging rules issued by federal agencies that permit employers to exclude contraception from employee health benefits on religious grounds. Read more about our March amicus brief here. In July 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction issued by a District Court judge barring the implementation of these new rules.