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Juliana v. United States

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

October 15, 2018

KELSEY CASCADIA ROSE JULIANA, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Ann Aiken United States District Judge. [1]

         In this civil rights action, plaintiffs-a group of young people who were between the ages of eight and nineteen when this lawsuit was filed; Earth Guardians, a nonprofit association of young environmental activists; and Dr. James Hansen, acting as guardian for plaintiff "future generations"-allege that the federal government is violating their rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         Before the Court are two dispositive motions: federal defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (doc. 195) and federal defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 207). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is granted in part and denied in part, and the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed this action in August 2015, naming the United States, President Barack Obama, and the heads of numerous executive agencies (collectively, "federal defendants") as defendants. Plaintiffs allege that federal defendants have known for more than fifty years that carbon dioxide ("CO[2]") produced by the industrial scale burning of fossil fuels was "causing global warming and dangerous climate change, and that continuing to burn fossil fuels would destabilize the climate system on which present and future generations of our nation depend for their wellbeing and survival." First Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs further allege that federal defendants have long "known of the unusually dangerous risks of harm to human life, liberty, and property that would be caused by continued fossil fuel burning." Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs assert that, rather than responding to this knowledge by "implement[ing] a rational course of effective action to phase out carbon pollution," federal defendants "have continued to permit, authorize, and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption and exportation[, ]" thereby "deliberately allow[ing] atmospheric CO2 concentrations to escalate to levels unprecedented in human history[.]" Id. ¶¶ 5, 7.

         Plaintiffs contend that federal defendants' policy on fossil fuels deprives plaintiffs of life, liberty, and property without due process of law; impermissibly discriminates against "young citizens, who will disproportionately experience the destabilized climate system in our country[;]" and fails to live up to federal defendants' obligations to hold certain essential natural resources in trust for the benefit of all citizens. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, asserting that there is "an extremely limited amount of time to preserve a habitable climate system for our country" before "the warming of our nation will become locked in or rendered increasingly severe." Id. ¶ 10.

         In November 2015, federal defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (doc. 27) Federal defendants argued that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue; that plaintiffs' public trust claims failed as a matter of law because the public trust doctrine does not apply to the federal government; that plaintiffs' equal protection claims could not proceed because plaintiffs are not members of a protected class and the government's energy and climate policies have a rational basis; and that plaintiffs' due process claims were deficient because they had not alleged violation of a fundamental right.

         Also in November 2015, three national trade organizations-the National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (collectively, "intervenor-defendants")-moved to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) and dismiss the complaint, (doc. 14 & 19) Like federal defendants, intervenor-defendants argued that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. Intervenor defendants also argued that plaintiffs had failed to identify a cognizable cause of action and that dismissal was required because the case presented non-justiciable political questions.

         In January 2016, Magistrate Judge Coffin granted intervenor-defendants' motion to intervene. Juliana v. United States, 2016 WL 138903, at *5 (D. Or. Jan. 14, 2016). In April 2016, following oral argument, Judge Coffin issued his Findings and Recommendation ("F&R"), recommending that the Court deny both motions to dismiss, (doc. 68) Federal defendants and intervenor-defendants filed objections to the F&R and the Court held oral argument in September 2016. (doc. 73, 74 & 81) Following that argument, in November 2016, the Court issued an opinion and order adopting Judge Coffin's F&R and denying the motions to dismiss. Juliana v. United States, 217 F.Supp.3d 1224, 1276 (D. Or. 2016).

         In January 2017, federal defendants filed their Answer, (doc. 98) They agreed with many of the scientific and factual allegations in the First Amended Complaint, including that:

• "for over fifty years some officials and persons employed by the federal government have been aware of a growing scientific body of research concerning the effects of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric concentrations of CO2-including that increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could cause measureable long-lasting changes to the global climate, resulting in an array of severe and deleterious effects to human beings, which will worsen over time;"
• "global atmospheric concentrations of C02, methane, and nitrous oxide are at unprecedentedly high levels compared to the past 800, 000 years of historical data and pose risks to human health and welfare;"
• "Federal Defendants . . . permit, authorize, and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption, and exportation;"
• "fossil fuel extraction, development, and consumption produce CO2 emissions and . . . past emissions of CO2 from such activities have increased the atmospheric concentration of C02;"
• "EPA has concluded . . . that, combined, emissions of six well-mixed [greenhouse gases] are the primary and best understood drivers of current and projected climate change;"
• "the consequences of climate change are already occurring and, in general, those consequences will become more severe with more fossil fuel emissions;"
• "climate change is damaging human and natural systems, increasing the risk of loss of life, and requiring adaptation on larger and faster scales than current species have successfully achieved in the past, potentially increasing the risk of extinction or severe disruption for many species;" and
• "human activity is likely to have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-1900s."

Fed. Defs.' Answer to First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1; 5; 7; 10; 213; 217. Those admissions and federal defendants' other filings make clear that plaintiffs and federal defendants agree on the following contentions: climate change is happening, is caused in significant part by humans, specifically human induced fossil fuel combustion, and poses a "monumental" danger to Americans' health and welfare. See Juliana, 217 F.Supp.3d at 1234 n.3 (quoting federal defendants' objections to Judge Coffin's F&R recommending denial of the motions to dismiss). The pleadings also make clear that plaintiffs and federal defendants agree that federal defendants' policies regarding fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions play a role in global climate change, though federal defendants dispute that their actions can fairly be deemed to have caused plaintiffs' alleged injuries.[3]

         In January 2017, Barack Obama left office and Donald J. Trump assumed the presidency. In March 2017, both federal defendants and intervenor-defendants moved to certify the opinion and order denying their motion to dismiss for interlocutory appeal, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). (doc. 120 & 122) That same day, federal defendants sought a stay of proceedings pending this Court's resolution of the motion to certify for interlocutory appeal and the Ninth Circuit's resolution of that proposed appeal, (doc. 121) In April 2017, Judge Coffin denied the request for a stay. (doc. 137) In May 2017, Judge Coffin issued his F&R recommending that the Court deny the motions to certify, (doc. 146) Federal defendants and intervenor-defendants filed objections, and in June 2017, the Court adopted Judge Coffin's F&R and declined to certify the opinion and order for interlocutory appeal. Juliana v. United States, 2017 WL 2483705, at *2 (D. Or. June 8, 2017).

         In May and June 2017, intervenor-defendants moved to withdraw from this lawsuit. (docs. 163, 166 & 167) Judge Coffin granted that motion, (doc. 182)

         In June 2017, federal defendants filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the Ninth Circuit, seeking an order directing this Court to dismiss the case. (doc. 177) Federal defendants asked the Ninth Circuit to stay all proceedings in this Court pending resolution of that petition. Id. In July 2017, the Ninth Circuit granted the request for a stay and ordered plaintiffs to file a response to the petition for writ of mandamus. Ninth Circuit No. 17-71692.

         On March 7, 2018, the Ninth Circuit denied the petition for writ of mandamus. In re United States, 884 F.3d 830, 833 (9th Cir. 2018). The denial rested on the court's determination that federal defendants had not satisfied any of the factors justifying the extraordinary remedy of mandamus. Id. at 834-38.

         On May 7, 2018, federal defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, (doc. 195) In that motion, they seek to dismiss President Trump as a party and to obtain dismissal of the entire lawsuit on the grounds that plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). Additionally, federal defendants argue that plaintiffs' requested relief is barred by the separation of powers. Federal defendants also moved for a protective order, seeking a stay of all discovery on the theory that discovery in this case is barred by the APA. (doc. 196) Specifically, federal defendants sought a stay of discovery pending the resolution of the motion for a protective order, the motion for judgment on the pleadings, and a not-yet-filed motion for summary judgment. On May 22, 2018, federal defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, (doc. 207) In that motion, they seek a judgment as a matter of law in their favor, arguing that (1) there are no genuine issues of material fact; (2) plaintiffs lack Article III standing to sue; (3) plaintiffs have failed to assert a valid cause of action under the APA; (4) plaintiffs' claims violate separation of powers principles; (5) plaintiffs have no due process right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life; and (6) the federal government has no obligations under the public trust doctrine.

         Meanwhile, the Solicitor General was considering seeking Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit's opinion denying mandamus relief. The presumptive deadline to file a petition for writ of certiorari to review that opinion was June 5, 2018. On May 24, 2018, the Solicitor General sought to extend the time for filing a petition for writ of certiorari to July 5, 2018. That request was docketed in United States v. U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Supreme Court No. 17A1304. Justice Kennedy granted the extension.

         On May 25, 2018, Judge Coffin denied federal defendants' motion for a protective order and a stay. (doc. 212) On June 1, 2018, federal defendants filed objections to Judge Coffin's denial of the protective order and requested a stay of discovery pending resolution of those objections, (doc. 215 & 216) On June 14, 2018, the Court denied that request for a stay by minute order, (doc. 238)

         On June 25, 2018, federal defendants sought a second extension of the deadline for filing a petition for writ of certiorari. Justice Kennedy granted that request and extended the deadline to August 4, 2018.

         On June 29, 2018, the Court affirmed Judge Coffin's denial of federal defendants' request to stay all discovery, (doc. 300) On July 5, 2018, federal defendants sought review of that decision through a second petition for writ of mandamus in the Ninth Circuit. In separate filings, federal defendants asked this Court and the Ninth Circuit to stay all discovery and trial pending the Ninth Circuit's resolution of that petition. On July 16, 2018, the Ninth Circuit denied the request for a stay. On July 17, 2018, the Court denied the request for a stay. (doc. 324) That same day, the Solicitor General petitioned Justice Kennedy for a stay of proceedings pending the Ninth Circuit's resolution of the mandamus petition. That request was docketed at United States v. U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Supreme Court No. 18A65. In his application for a stay, the Solicitor General suggested to Justice Kennedy that he could construe the stay application as a petition for writ of mandamus directing this Court to dismiss the lawsuit or as a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit's first mandamus decision.

         On July 18, 2018, the parties appeared for oral argument before this Court on the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Motion for Summary Judgment.

         On July 20, 2018, the Ninth Circuit denied federal defendants' second mandamus petition, holding that federal defendants had not met the standard to qualify for mandamus relief. In re United States, ___ F.3d ___, 2018 WL 3484444, at *1 (9th Cir. July 20, 2018). The court concluded that because "no new circumstances justify this second petition," it "remains the case that the issues the government raises in its petition are better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation." Id.

         That same day, the Solicitor General wrote to Justice Kennedy to reiterate his request that he construe the application for a stay in Supreme Court No. 18A65 as a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit's first mandamus decision. Alternatively, he suggested that Justice Kennedy could construe the application as a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit's second mandamus decision. On July 30, 2018, Justice Kennedy referred the application for a stay to the entire Supreme Court. In a summary order, the Supreme Court denied as the Solicitor General's application as premature.

         This leaves two substantive motions before the Court, which the Court now addresses in Sections I and II below: federal defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, and federal defendants' motion for summary judgment. Defendants have also requested that the Court certify any portion of this opinion and order denying their substantive motions for interlocutory appeal, this is addressed in Section III. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine, (doc. 254) seeking judicial notice of certain documents, is addressed in Section IV.

         STANDARDS

         A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but early enough not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). "Analysis under Rule 12(c) is substantially identical to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy." Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Mgrnt, 793 F.3d 1147, 1155 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, "[a] judgment on the pleadings is properly granted when, taking all allegations in the pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 713 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation marks omitted). To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, "the non- conclusory 'factual content' [of the complaint]," and reasonable inferences from that content, "must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007).

         Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id.; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify facts which show a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Summary judgment is inappropriate if a rational trier of fact, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P'ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial should be resolved against the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 339. Finally, even if the standards of Rule 56 are met, a court has discretion to deny a motion for summary judgment if it believes that "the better course would be to proceed to a full trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         DISCUSSION

         There are two motions before the Court in this now three year old case: federal defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (doc. 195) and Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 207). Many of the issues raised in these motions are interrelated. Given the nature of the arguments presented, it is more efficient and likely to avoid confusion to deal with all of the pending issues in a single opinion and order. Thus, the Court addresses each motion in turn.

         I. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings[4]

         Federal defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings rests on four grounds, two of which they raise for the first time in their 12(c) motion and two of which the Court has already considered and ruled upon. First, federal defendants move to dismiss President Trump as a defendant, arguing that he is not essential to effective relief and his presence in the lawsuit violates the separation of powers. Second, federal defendants seek dismissal of the lawsuit in its entirety, on the theory that the APA governs all challenges to federal agency action and plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under the APA. Third, federal defendants invite the Court to reconsider all aspects of its opinion and order denying their November 2016 motion to dismiss and urge dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds raised in that motion. Finally, echoing arguments raised two years ago by intervenor-defendants, federal defendants contend that dismissal of this action is required because the Court cannot redress plaintiffs' injuries without violating the separation of powers.

         A. Motion to Dismiss President Trump as a Defendant

         Federal defendants first move to dismiss President Trump as a defendant. The Ninth Circuit declined to address federal defendants' argument on that point in its denial of the 2017 mandamus petition because defendants had not first raised the issue in this Court. See In re United States, 884 F.3d at 836 ("First, to the extent the defendants argue that the President himself has been named as a party unnecessarily and that defending this litigation would unreasonably burden him, this argument is premature because the defendants never moved in the district court to dismiss the President as a party.").

         At oral argument, the parties reported that plaintiffs were willing to stipulate to the dismissal of the President without prejudice. Federal defendants rejected that offer and request dismissal with prejudice. In the absence of a stipulation, the Court must address both whether dismissal is warranted and, if it is, whether that dismissal should be with or without prejudice.

         Federal defendants assert that it would violate separation of powers principles for this Court to issue an injunction or declaration against President Trump in connection with his official duties. The extent to which a federal court may issue equitable relief against a sitting President is unsettled and hotly contested. As Justice O'Connor, writing for a plurality of the Court, explained twenty-five years ago:

While injunctive relief against executive officials like the Secretary of Commerce is within the courts' power, see Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, [343 U.S. 579 (1952), ] the District Court's grant of injunctive relief against the President himself is extraordinary, and should have raised judicial eyebrows. We have left open the question whether the President might be subject to a judicial injunction requiring the performance of a purely "ministerial" duty, Mississippi v. Johnson, 4 Wall. 475, 498-499 (1867), and we have held that the President may be subject to a subpoena to provide information relevant to an ongoing criminal prosecution, United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), but in general "this court has no jurisdiction of a bill to enjoin the President in the performance of his official duties." Mississippi v. Johnson, [4 Wall, at 501]. At the threshold, the District Court should have evaluated whether injunctive relief against the President was available, and, if not, whether appellees' injuries were nonetheless redressable.

Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788, 802-03 (1992) (plurality op.) (parallel citations omitted). Justice O'Connor ultimately concluded that it was unnecessary to "decide whether injunctive relief against the President was appropriate" because "the injury alleged [wa]s likely to be redressed by declaratory relief against the Secretary [of Commerce] alone." Id. at 803.

         Since Franklin, subsequent cases have made clear that there is no absolute bar on issuance of declaratory and injunctive relief against a sitting president, even with regard to the exercise of his official duties. For example, in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417, 449 (1998), the Supreme Court affirmed a declaratory judgment holding that certain actions taken by President Clinton under the Line Item Veto Act violated the Constitution's allocation of lawmaking authority between Congress and the President.

         In its recent decision on President Trump's second "travel ban" executive order, the Ninth Circuit cited Franklin for the proposition that when adequate equitable relief is likely available from some inferior governmental official (or group of officials) the President ought to be dismissed out of respect for separation of powers:

Finally, the Government argues that the district court erred by issuing an injunction that runs against the President himself. This position of the Government is well taken. Generally, we lack "jurisdiction of a bill to enjoin the President in the performance of his official duties." Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788, 802-03 (1992) (quoting Mississippi v. Johnson, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 475, 501 (1866)); see Id. at 802 ("[I]njunctive relief against the President himself is extraordinary, and should . . . raise [ ] judicial eyebrows."). Injunctive relief, however, may run against executive officials, including the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State. See, e.g., Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., 343 U.S. at 588-89 (holding that President Truman did not act within his constitutional power in seizing steel mills and affirming the district court's decision enjoining the Secretary of Commerce from carrying out the order); Franklin, 505 U.S. at 802-03.
We conclude that Plaintiffs' injuries can be redressed fully by injunctive relief against the remaining Defendants, and that the extraordinary remedy of enjoining the President is not appropriate here. See Franklin, 505 U.S. at 803. We therefore vacate the district court's injunction to the extent the order runs against the President, but affirm to the extent that it runs against the remaining "Defendants and all their respective officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and persons in active concert or participation with them."

Hawaii v. Trump, 859 F.3d 741, 788 (9th Cir. 2017), vacated and remanded on mootness grounds, 138 S.Ct. 377 (2017). Hawaii makes Franklin's plurality opinion on this point binding Ninth Circuit precedent. The inquiry is not into the President's action or inaction in relationship to the injuries complained of, but rather into the relief requested, and whether or not equitable remedies involving the President himself are essential to that relief. As adopted in Hawaii, Franklin's rule on when the President is an appropriate defendant is best understood as a strain of the canon of constitutional avoidance: because granting equitable relief against the President of the United States raises serious constitutional questions, dismissal of the President as a defendant is appropriate whenever it appears likely that the plaintiffs' injuries can be redressed through relief against another defendant.

         Plaintiffs' opposition to dismissing President Trump boils down to a general assertion that complete relief may be unavailable without the President as a defendant. They argue that further development of the factual record is necessary to determine whether injunctive or declaratory relief is available against President Trump and whether plaintiffs' injuries are redressable in the absence of such relief. The Court is not persuaded. This lawsuit is, at its heart, a challenge to the environmental and energy policies of the federal government as expressed through the action (or inaction) of federal agencies. Because the Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have spoken so clearly about the separation of powers concerns inherent in awarding equitable relief against a sitting president, the burden is on plaintiffs to explain with specificity why relief against President Trump is essential to redressing their injuries. They have failed to carry that burden.

         In an attempt to demonstrate why President Trump is necessary to effective equitable relief, plaintiffs cite a number of specific presidential actions in their Amended Complaint and briefs. For example, plaintiffs cite:

• An Executive Order in which President Trump directed a rollback of the Clean Power Plan by rescinding the moratorium on coal mining on federal lands and six other Obama-era executive orders aimed at curbing climate change and regulating emissions;
• An Executive Order in which President Trump ordered the expedition of environmental reviews and approvals for infrastructure projects;
• An Executive Order in which President Trump ordered a review of the "Waters of the United States" Rule; and
• Presidential memoranda encouraging approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline.

         The problem with those examples is that it is not enough, under Hawaii, to show that the President was involved in the challenged action; plaintiffs must show that effective relief is unavailable unless it is awarded against the President. Like the "travel ban" challenged in Hawaii, each of the foregoing orders and memoranda included express directives to be carried out by other governmental officials. See, e.g. Exec. Order No. 13783, 82 Fed. Reg. 16093 (Mar. 28, 2017) (issuing orders to "[t]he heads of agencies" including to the "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency" and the "Secretary of the Interior"); Exec. Order No. 13766, 82 Fed. Reg. 8657 (directing the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to take certain actions); Exec. Order No. 13778, 82 Fed. Reg. 12497 (Feb. 28, 2017) (addressing "the Administrator, the Assistant Secretary, and the heads of all executive departments and agencies" including the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency); President Trump Takes Action to Expedite Priority Energy and Infrastructure Projects (Jan. 24, 2017), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-trump-takes-action-expedite-priority-energy-infrastructure-projects/ (summarizing memoranda addressed to "relevant Federal agencies"). Thus, with respect to the propriety of the President as a defendant, this case is indistinguishable from Hawaii and Franklin: because lower governmental officials are charged with executing the challenged presidential policies, equitable relief against President Trump is not essential to redressability.

         Plaintiffs note that Hawaii concerned injunctive relief only, and certainly injunctive relief implicates more serious separation of powers concerns than declaratory relief. But as articulated in Franklin, any equitable relief awarded against a sitting president with respect to his official duties raises constitutional concerns. Accordingly, when effective relief is available against lower administration officials, the Court concludes that dismissal of the President is the correct decision for either type of equitable relief. See Franklin, 505 U.S. at 827-828 (Stevens, J., concurring) (arguing that declaratory relief against the president, like injunctive relief, "would produce needless head-on confrontations between district judges and the Chief Executive"). On the current record, the Court concludes that President Trump is not essential to effective relief because "[p]laintiffs' injuries can be redressed fully by injunctive [or declaratory] relief against the remaining [d]efendants." Hawaii, 859 F.3d at 788. Due respect for separation of powers therefore requires dismissal of President Trump as a defendant.

         The next question is whether dismissal should be with or without prejudice. Across a host of contexts, the default rule is dismissal without prejudice. See, e.g., Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (stating that dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) should be with prejudice only if the court determines that the pleading "could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts"); Hamilton Copper & Steel Corp. v. Primary Steel, Inc., 898 F.2d 1428, 1429 (9th Cir. 1990) (explaining that, even when a party's misconduct justifies the sanction of dismissal, dismissal with prejudice is "extreme" and rarely deployed); Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2) (providing that dismissal at the plaintiffs request shall be without prejudice unless the dismissal order states otherwise); In re Fresenias Granuflo/Naturalyte Dialysate Prods. Liability Litig., Ill F.Supp.3d 103, 106 (D. Mass. 2015) (explaining that dismissal with prejudice under Rule 41(a)(2) generally is justified only in situations where it is clear that there is "no way for any plaintiff to bring the same claim" in the future, for example when the applicable statute of limitations has "conclusively run"); Lepesh v. Barr, 2001 WL 34041885, *3 (D. Or. 2001) (citing Ninth Circuit precedent governing when amendment of a pleading would be futile for the proposition that dismissal should be with prejudice only if it "appear[s] to a certainty that Plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts that could be proven").

         Federal defendants argue that President Trump should be dismissed with prejudice because Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent is clear that federal courts lack jurisdiction to issue equitable relief in connection with a sitting president's performance of his official duties. As explained above, however, neither the Supreme Court nor the Ninth Circuit has gone so far. Indeed, it is clear that under some limited circumstances and when required by the constitution, such equitable relief is available. Clinton, for example, involved a challenge to President Clinton's use of the line-item veto. Clinton, 524 U.S. at 449. The veto power is, of course, exercised directly by the President and not by subordinate agencies, so no other federal official would have been an appropriate defendant in that case. More recently, in a case involving alleged violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland addressed the availability of equitable relief against President Trump:

The Court also disagrees that the President's status as the sole defendant changes this analysis, given that no official other than he could be sued to enforce the purported violations at issue. "[I]t would be exalting form over substance if the President's acts were held to be beyond the reach of judicial scrutiny when he himself is the defendant, but held within judicial control when he and/or the Congress has delegated the performance of duties to federal officials subordinate to the President and one or more of them can be named as a defendant." Nat'l Treasury Emps. Union v. Nixon, 492 F.2d 587, 613 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

District of Columbia v. Trump, 291 F.Supp.3d 725, 751-52 (D. Md. 2018). The Emoluments Clauses, like the veto power, are specific to the President. A lawsuit asserting violation of those clauses therefore could not be directed to federal agency heads or other federal officials.

         As explained above, on the current record, it appears that this is a case in which effective relief is available through a lawsuit addressed only to lower federal officials. It is not possible to know how developments to the record in the course of the litigation may change the analysis. The Court cannot conclude with certainty that President Trump will never become essential to affording complete relief. For that reason, the Court concludes that dismissal without prejudice is the appropriate course. Any harm the President will suffer from the continuing hypothetical possibility that he might be joined as a defendant in the future is minimal. Moreover, that minimal harm is further mitigated by the fact that federal defendants would be free to oppose any future motion for leave to amend the complaint and add the President as a defendant on the grounds that permitting such amendment would cause "undue prejudice to the opposing party." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

         Federal defendants' motion to dismiss President Trump from this lawsuit is granted. The dismissal is without prejudice.

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim under the APA

         Federal defendants next argue that this entire case must be dismissed because plaintiffs are challenging the actions (and inactions) of federal agencies, and thus must bring their suit, if at all, under the APA.[5] The APA provides a right of judicial review to "[a] person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action." 5 U.S.C. § 702. "Agency action made reviewable by statute and final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in court are subject to judicial review." Id. § 704. A reviewing court has authority both to "compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed" and to "set aside agency action" on several grounds, including that the action is "arbitrary, capricious, [or] an abuse of discretion;" is "contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity"; or exceeds the agency's statutory authority. Id. ยง 706(1) & (2)(A)-(C). The APA's judicial review ...


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