General · January 21, 2021

Washington AG: Cases Against Federal Government Will Continue

Ag Ferguson: Some Cases Against Federal Government Will Continue Despite President Biden Taking Officeprinter-friendly Version

Attorney General’s Office has filed 97 lawsuits against the federal government since January of 2017

OLYMPIA, WA (STL.News) Attorney General Bob Ferguson today offered an update on his lawsuits against the federal government in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Washington was the first state to challenge President Trump in court.  Beginning with his successful lawsuit challenging President Trump’s first travel ban filed just 10 days after Trump took office, Ferguson filed 97 cases against the federal government during President Trump’s term in office.  To date, he scored 39 legal victories in those cases, including multiple victories at the United States Supreme Court.  He experienced only two legal defeats.

The Attorney General’s website maintains a list of all 97 lawsuits on his website.

Ferguson’s office led 36 of the 97 legal challenges.  The lead state typically does the overwhelming majority of the work.  Financial recoveries from successful lawsuits paid for nearly all of the legal work on these cases, not the state Legislature.  In other words, corporations and individuals that violated the law funded these lawsuits, not taxpayers.

More than 60 of the 97 cases — including 17 legal victories and one adverse ruling — are still being actively litigated.  Many of them are likely to continue working their way through the courts despite President Biden taking office.

In recent weeks, the Trump Administration filed a flurry of so-called “midnight regulations” further weakening critical environmental protections in the waning days of the former president’s term.  Washington joined 12 multistate lawsuits led by other states in the last week challenging these last-minute attempts to undermine our environment.

“If someone had told me four years ago that, by the time President Trump left office, I would file 97 lawsuits against the federal government, I would not have believed them,” Ferguson said.  “Republicans sometimes asked me why I filed so many lawsuits against the Trump Administration.  I would respond that they should ask the president why he pursued so many illegal policies that hurt our state.  Throughout his term, the president demonstrated his contempt for the rule of law, and our record in court speaks for itself.”

In Ferguson’s successful lawsuits, the administration either reversed its illegal action, or a court blocked or vacated the illegal policy.  Several of Ferguson’s lawsuits against the Trump Administration reached the U.S. Supreme Court, including his successful challenges to its attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, and the president’s unlawful attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Nearly half of Ferguson’s legal victories — and, in fact more than half of his 97 lawsuits — involve challenging the administration’s attempts to undermine critical environmental protections.  As a result of these lawsuits, courts have repeatedly ruled that the Trump Administration’s actions violated cornerstone federal environmental laws like the Clean Air Act. In addition to several recent “midnight regulation” lawsuits, continuing environmental cases also include Ferguson’s challenges to Trump’s attempts to weaken key environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the administration’s decision to open the pristine Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

Ferguson’s lawsuit challenging the federal government’s unlawful decision to sell the National Archives building in Seattle and move its precious regional records 1,000 miles away will also continue.  The documents held in the archives are of invaluable significance to the Northwest, and include irreplaceable tribal records, documents detailing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and tens of thousands of Northwest case files related to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Twenty-nine federally recognized tribes, Alaskan tribal entities, and tribal communities from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, as well as nine community organizations, historical preservation societies and museums and the state of Oregon joined Ferguson’s lawsuit.

Ferguson’s legal record against the Trump Administration

Ferguson filed 97 lawsuits against the Trump Administration.  Fifty-six of these cases are awaiting a judicial ruling.  Ferguson has 39 legal victories against the Trump Administration.  Twenty-two of these victories are finished and cannot be appealed.  There have been two adverse decisions on the merits, one of which is currently on appeal.

Of these 97 lawsuits:

  • 56 involve environmental protections (record: 18-0);
  • 33 of the 56 specifically challenge actions by President Trump’s EPA (record: 10-0);
  • 15 relate to immigration (record: 8-2);
  • 9 relate to health care access (record: 4-0);
  • 5 of the 9 relate to reproductive health care access (record: 2-0);
  • 4 relate to public safety (record: 2-0)
  • 2 of the 4 relate to 3D-printed guns (record: 2-0);
  • 2 relate to consumer protections for student borrowers (record: 1-0);
  • 2 relate to ensuring access to CARES Act relief funds in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic (record: 2-0); and
  • 9 remaining cases include challenges to the administration’s military transgender ban, U.S. Postal Service changes, protecting

Washington’s net neutrality law, the administration’s changes to the “joint employer rule” and several cases related to the decision to sell the National Archives building in Seattle (record: 4-0).
Washington state is the lead plaintiff state (or co-lead) in 36 of the 97 lawsuits.  Washington’s record in these 36 cases is 18-0. These legal victories include:

  • The original travel ban case;
  • 2 DACA cases;
  • 2 3D-printed guns cases;
  • Blocking damaging changes at the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the 2020 election;
  • Blocking the use of military construction funds for the border wall; and
  • 2 cases ensuring access to CARES Act relief funds

The Attorney General’s affirmative litigation divisions (Civil Rights Division, Consumer Protection Division, Environmental Protection Division, and the affirmative section of the Complex Litigation Division) led all but one of the cases in which Washington state is the lead plaintiff.  The one Washington-led case not handled by an affirmative division is a challenge regarding Washington state’s water quality standards, which are overseen by the state Department of Ecology.

Affirmative litigation divisions are almost entirely funded through recoveries in successful civil enforcement cases.  Consequently, the impact to taxpayers from this federal litigation is minimal.

Affirmative divisions also handled nearly half of cases in which Washington joined multistate litigation led by other states.  Multistate efforts led by other states require significantly fewer resources from the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office maintains an up-to-date list of all its federal litigation cases, including case summaries, case status and lead state, on its website.  That list can be found here.