1of 2 California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says major league players would envy his win-loss record.
The scorecard in California’s stream of lawsuits against President Trump includes wins on DACA, the census and sanctuary laws; losses on the travel ban and, so far at least, on the border wall; and no verdict yet on vehicle emissions or the Affordable Care Act.
But as Attorney General Xavier Becerra files his 100th Trump suit in 43 months, contesting rollbacks in environmental rules and enforcement, he says his win-loss record “would be the envy of any major-league baseball player.”
“This president and his administration have been lawbreakers to the extreme,” Becerra said in an interview Thursday. “If it’s going to cause harm to California, its resources, its values, my job is to defend.”
His office said he has won 59 of the suits, and did not say how many of the others had been lost or were still pending. But the numbers don’t paint a complete picture, because — to return to the baseball metaphor — the umpires keep changing.
Becerra has filed most of his cases in home fields, such as U.S. District Court in San Francisco, where most of the judges were appointed by Democratic presidents, and where rulings are reviewed by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, still one of the nation’s more liberal tribunals despite an influx of Trump appointees.
But the playoffs, so to speak, are held in the U.S. Supreme Court, with a generally conservative majority.
With crucial votes from Chief Justice John Roberts, California, represented by Becerra, has scored some notable victories in the high court on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young undocumented immigrants, as well as the state’s immigration sanctuary law and Trump’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
But the court upheld Trump’s ban on U.S. entry from a group of predominantly Muslim countries, reversing lower-court rulings won by California and other states. While it reviews other lower-court rulings in Becerra’s favor, the court has allowed Trump to continue building a border wall, deport immigrants who receive public benefits, deny asylum to migrants from Central America and ban most transgender military service.
The justices are scheduled to hear arguments Nov. 10 on a lawsuit by Republican-led states to abolish the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health insurance law that the court narrowly upheld in 2012. Becerra’s office will represent the law’s supporters.
Becerra’s 100th case, filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco along with 20 other states, the District of Columbia and Guam, challenges far-reaching regulations announced in July to limit environmental review of projects such as pipelines and highways.
The rules, scheduled to take effect Sept. 14, exempt some projects from environmental review, set time limits for review of other projects, and allow some to begin construction while federal agencies study their likely impact. They reduce agencies’ obligation to solicit or consider public comment on the projects. And they require agencies to disregard projects’ cumulative or “indirect” impact, including climate change.
The Trump administration says the changes will save money and boost job-creating infrastructure. Becerra’s suit says the rollbacks violate the landmark National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, which required federal agencies to assess a proposed project’s impact and order protective measures.
The administration’s plan abandons “informed decision-making, public participation and environmental and public health protection,” the suit said. It is likely to be referred to U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, who is hearing a similar suit filed July 29 by 20 environmental groups.
Like a number of Becerra’s still-pending lawsuits, the outcome of this one will be affected by the November election results. A Democratic administration would almost certainly rescind the new environmental regulations, just as it would restore California’s vehicle emissions standards, reinstate DACA, and end border wall construction.
Becerra’s office says 51 of his suits have involved environmental issues. One is a challenge by California and 21 other states to the administration’s rollback of auto emissions standards, pending in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. Several suits have contested rules allowing increased emissions of methane and other pollutants and greenhouse gases from federal lands.
And in May, a federal judge in Oakland refused to dismiss a suit by 17 states, including California, contesting the administration’s reductions in protection for endangered species with rules that make it easier to remove a species from the protected list, allow the government to consider economic impacts on landowners and bar any consideration of climate change.
Other topics of the lawsuits include:
Schools — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attempt to shift federal COVID-19 relief funds to private schools, at the expense of public schools in low-income areas, was blocked Wednesday by a federal judge in San Francisco.
Abortion — Trump administration rules that ban recipients of federal family-planning funds from referring any of their 4 million patients for abortions were upheld by the Ninth Circuit court in February.
Net neutrality — Trump appointees to the Federal Communications Commission have repealed rules that required internet service providers to treat all customers equally and prohibited providing faster service to those who paid more. In a suit joined by Becerra and his counterparts in other states, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the FCC’s action in October but also said states could pass their own net neutrality laws, including a 2018 law in California. The Trump administration has sued to overturn that law.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BobEgelko