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Summary

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled that the Trump Administration and the Department of Homeland Security have not exceeded their legal limits in waiving environmental reviews based on the REAL ID law of 2005. This Bush era law allows Federal agencies to waive previously required environmental reviews. Since August 2017, the Trump administration has filed three of the seven waivers filed in the law’s history. Three lawsuits were filed against the Trump Administration and the Department of Homeland Security based on federal overreach through the misuse of the REAL ID law and voided environmental standards outlined in the California Environmental Quality Act. The lawsuits were filed by Arizona’s Center for Biological Diversity, three California based advocacy groups (The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Legal Defense fund) and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They were consolidated by Judge Curiel into one case. These groups cited at least twelve endangered species and the possible effects of separating ecosystems, traffic, construction and lights as potentially damaging factors that warranted study. After hours of arguments and requests for more information from both sides, Judge Curiel sided with the Trump Administration saying that it has not exceeded the authority outlined in the REAL ID law. Judge Curiel also noted that his decision did not address whether the underlying projects and plans “are politically wise or prudent.” Attorney General Becerra says the state will examine other options for moving forward.

Analysis

When Judge Curiel’s decision was released, Trump tweeted, “Big legal win today. U.S. judge sided with Trump Administration…” However, this is not the first time Trump has tweeted about Judge Curiel. In May 2016, Judge Curiel was presiding over the lawsuit against Trump University. In this case Trump called Curiel a “very bad judge,” “very hostile” and “happens to be, we believe, Mexican.” (Curiel was born and raised in Indiana.) Curiel has been a judge in a variety of high stakes drug cases, and his colleagues said he was unphased by Trump’s name calling. While it is an unfortunate set back for both environmental and pro-immigration groups, Curiel made his decision based on the adherence to the REAL ID law by the Trump Administration Department of Homeland Security. A similar suit was filed in 2008 and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

 

Engagement Resource

● Read Judge Curiel’s full decision
● Learn more about the Sierra Club’s Efforts to block the Border Wall

This brief was compiled by Megan Toney. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact megan@usresistnews.org.

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