Just days after his inauguration, president Trump issued a sweeping executive order enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States.

The order threatened to withhold federal funding from those localities the federal government deems “sanctuary jurisdictions”—a term undefined in the order but which appears to include cities, counties, and states that, as a matter of policy, restrict local law enforcement from co- operating with federal immigration authorities.

SLS Alumni Work on a Key Sanctuary Jurisdiction Case
Santa Clara county counsel team with co-counsel members from Kemer, Van Nest & Peters with James Williams, JD ’10 and Cody Harris, JD ’07 (front and center)

Soon after the order was issued, Danielle Goldstein, JD ’06, deputy county counsel in the Santa Clara county counsel’s office, called her former SLS classmate Cody Harris, BA ’00, JD ’07, a partner at Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP in San Francisco.

“Danielle said the executive order had just been issued on sanctuary jurisdictions and that the county was going to challenge it. she asked if we might be interested in getting involved,” says Harris. “I literally pulled the car over so we could talk. I teach Constitutional Law through Stanford’s continuing studies program, so I’ve kept the con law home res burning over the years. and when i read the executive order, I immediately saw that it’s fatally flawed in several different ways—it leaps out off the page at you that it cannot stand. that it was even issued is by itself remarkable.”

Harris’ partners at Keker agreed to be co-counsel with the county of Santa Clara on the case.

“We led the lawsuit because federal and federally dependent funds represent 35 percent of our annual revenue—that’s $1.7 billion a year. so, there’s just too much at stake to look the other way when the president of the United States threatens to take away federal funding,” says James Williams, JD ’10, county counsel for Santa Clara County.

Williams explains the broader context of the case— the tension between federal and state responsibility.

“The county’s board of supervisors unanimously supported this action, including our republican member, and our sheriff and district attorney were fully on board as well,” says Williams. “even though the details of some of our immigration-related policies have provoked more debate, all of our political leadership supported this action because they agreed that these are decisions that should be made locally. they agreed that the federal government should not be coercing policy changes at the local level and that the president does not have the authority to take away our federal funding if we do not kowtow to his policy goals.”

Federal District Judge William H. Orrick issued a temporary nationwide injunction of the order on April 25.

“Combined, we were able to move quickly and get a preliminary injunction. we are all just delighted with the order that Judge Orrick issued; it’s so thorough and well thought out. and we were able to move so quickly because of this partnership between my office and Keker,” says Williams.
“Whenever you can work alongside lawyers as talented and well versed in the law as those in the county counsel’s office, you’re in luck,” says Harris. Joining Williams and Goldstein on the case were Javier Serrano, JD ’07, Kavita Narayan, JD ’08, and Julia Spiegel (BA ’06), all deputy county counsels at Santa Clara County.

Williams and Harris attribute some of their initial success to the 15 amicus briefs led, all in their favor—including one led by Stanford Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

A trial date has been set for April next year. “the merits are very strong,” says Williams. “We plan to get a permanent injunction.”