Massachusetts and Virginia Join Lawsuits Against Federal Government Over Trump Executive Order

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced her office would be joining a lawsuit against the federal government over President Trump’s controversial executive order. The original plaintiffs were the ACLU of Massachusetts and private attorneys on behalf of two associate professors from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

It is worth noting that, among the several statements in support of the lawsuit from state officials as well as representatives from the private sector and academia is this comment from Republican governor Charlie Baker:

“Massachusetts is a global community and we all benefit from the shared experiences of our partners from around the world to support our economy and educational institutions to make our state the best place to live, work and raise a family. The recent executive order puts this at risk, will not improve our security, and the lack of guidance associated with such an abrupt and overwhelming decision is problematic for all involved.  Our administration has worked with the Attorney General’s office and supports her challenging this action. We look forward to the courts resolving this matter expeditiously.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also filed a motion to intervene in Aziz v. Trump et al. in the Eastern District of Virginia, effectively making the state a plaintiff in the case. The motion says in part:

The Commonwealth has substantial interests justifying its intervention. Virginia has a substantial interest in protecting its public universities and their faculty and students from the academic and fiscal disruption posed by the Executive Order. The Executive Order impairs the ability of students who are lawful permanent residents or present on student visas from continuing to attend Virginia’s public colleges and universities. That impairment will hamper the ability of Virginia’s colleges and universities to attract and retain foreign students in the future and result in a significant loss of tuition revenue to the Commonwealth. The Executive Order also hinders the travel of faculty members and other educational personnel employed by Virginia’s public colleges and universities. Faculty members and students who are unable to travel likely will be forced to forfeit their grant moneys. Moreover, Virginia has a quasi-sovereign interest “in the health and well-being —both physical and economic—of its residents in general,” which will be impaired if Virginia is not permitted to intervene.
Herring’s office also filed a separate brief in support of the motion to intervene.
That makes three states which have joined lawsuits against the federal government yesterday alone.

Democratic Attorneys General Prepare to Challenge Trump Administration In Court

As Democrats prepare to enter next year completely shut out from any position of power in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Democratic attorneys general are preparing to challenge or oppose the incoming administration’s agenda. According to the New York Times, this would essentially be a continuation of the roles played by Republican attorneys general during the Obama presidency:

The states’ rights arguments that Republicans have made gospel for nearly eight years — that states must serve as a check against federal overreach — are likely to become convenient for Democrats. So are the legal tactics that Republican attorneys general used to stifle Obama administration programs, including filing lawsuits in front of friendly local judges to win nationwide injunctions against policies they hoped to stop, said Amanda Frost, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law.

With Mr. Trump’s ascension, attorneys general of both parties may shuck any remaining veneer of nonpartisanship, even as they continue to wade across party boundaries on investigations involving consumer protection or pharmaceutical pricing.

According to Paul Nolette, a political-science professor at Marquette University, who studies attorneys general, Republican attorneys general filed partisan legal briefs in only five Supreme Court cases during the Clinton administration, a figure that rose to 97 in the first seven years of the Obama administration.

Donald Trump is already familiar with how litigious and problematic New york Attorney General Eric Schneiderman can be, having recently settled the class-action lawsuit against Trump University brought by Schneiderman for $25 million. But legal opposition in the states to the president’s agenda has a way of elevating the attorney general, as was the case with Greg Abbott in Texas.  A new generation of Democratic stars may emerge from the legal trenches after opposing Donald Trump for the next four years.