A federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday tore into the Trump administration for repeatedly making “misleading, if not false, representations, in some instances under oath” in a case involving the government’s attempt to exclude New York residents from expedited traveler programs.
In a 14-page order, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York (SDNY), a Barack Obama appointee, sided with plaintiffs. The plaintiffs sued the administration over its decision to prevent New Yorkers from enrolling in the Trusted Travelers Program (TTP), which gives pre-cleared participants expedited access to pass through airport screenings and border crossings. Categorizing DHS’s decision as “plainly arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Furman granted the plaintiffs request for summary judgment.
Following plaintiffs filing of the lawsuit, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially contended that the exclusion of New York was required because the state refused to share DMV information about applicants’ criminal histories, preventing the government from completing proper background screenings—despite the fact that several other states had near identical policies in place.
During litigation, however, DHS said it discovered that several “statements and representations” made to the court “were inaccurate.” The government conceded that the revelations “undermine[d] a central argument in [D]efendants’ briefs and declarations to date: that CBP is not able to assure itself of an applicant’s low-risk status because New York fails to share relevant DMV information with CBP for TTP purposes,” advising the court that the issue was now moot.
Plaintiffs, on the other hand, argued that the case was not moot because they may be entitled to additional relief because the government implemented and defended a ban only to admit a dearth of factual foundation.
“Putting aside evidence that the TTP Decision was pretextual, Defendants’ own admissions establish that, at the very least, DHS ‘entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem’ and ‘offered an explanation for its decision that r[an] counter to the evidence before the agency,’” Furman wrote. “In short, Defendants themselves now acknowledge that the TTP Decision ‘was premised on an erroneous foundation’ and ‘is not legally supportable.’ For that reason alone, the TTP Decision cannot stand.”
In his conclusion, Furman derided the Trump administration for defending a factually erroneous position, noting that despite granting summary judgment in the case, he was still considering the possibility of taking additional steps against the government.
“By making a decision that may well have been pretextual, and was certainly arbitrary and capricious, Defendants undermined the “core constitutional and democratic values” underlying the APA. Making matters worse, when forced by Plaintiffs to defend their decision in court, Defendants initially did so by repeating their misleading, if not false, representations, in some instances under oath,” Furman wrote. “To their credit, Defendants eventually admitted that their decision had been legally indefensible. But it is hard to imagine that they would have done so but for the ‘thorough, probing, [and] in-depth review’ that they faced by virtue of Plaintiffs’ lawsuits.”
The parties were ordered to submit a joint letter addressing whether the court should take any additional steps to fully remedy the situation.
Read the full order below:
[image via Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images]
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