An appeals court denied the Trump administration’s emergency request to block a federal judge’s ruling that prevents President Trump from using $2.5 billion in military funds to build a wall along the southern border.
In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said in an opinion that “a stay of the district court’s order granting Plaintiffs an injunction is not warranted.”
The Justice Department appealed after U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam, who is an appointee of former President Barack Obama, ruled to permanently block the $2.5 billion after issuing a temporary injunction in May to stop the administration’s use of the funds. The ruling stymied several construction projects in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Gilliam ruled in two lawsuits on Friday. The first, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, came in response to Trump’s national emergency declaration transferring $6.7 billion in military funds to border wall construction. Gilliam’s decision halted the use of funds meant for Defense Department counter-drug activities.
In May, upon issuing the temporary injunction on border wall funding, Gilliam noted that the partial government shutdown earlier in the year represented an improper balance of power between lawmakers and the president. He stated, “The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic.”
The 9th Circuit appeared to agree with Gilliam on this explanation. The opinion from the appeals court said, “the use of those funds violates the constitutional requirement that the Executive Branch not spend money absent an appropriation from Congress.”
The case is not yet settled, but the opinion issued Thursday indicates that the Trump administration is likely to lose. “There is a strong likelihood that Plaintiffs will prevail in this litigation, and Defendants have a correspondingly low likelihood of success on appeal,” the 9th Circuit said.
Included in the majority was Judge Richard Clifton, who was nominated to the Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush.
Gilliam also ruled in a separate lawsuit filed by the state of California and 19 other states stopping the Trump administration from going forward with multiple border wall constructions in New Mexico and California while the case plays out.