U.S. Justice Department in Washington. Credit: Mike Scarcella / ALM

Less than a week after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California to block the state’s immigration sanctuary laws, the judge assigned to the case on Monday told lawyers for both sides to knock off the squabbling over scheduling.

U.S. District Judge John Mendez of the Eastern District of California issued an order Monday telling lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and California’s attorney general “not to file any further statements, responses or arguments … not specifically authorized or requested by the court.”

Mendez referred specifically to three filings—a proposed scheduling order by the Justice Department, a counterproposal by Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office and a counter-response submitted Monday by the Justice Department.

In the combined 23 pages, the public learned this much: The two sides could not agree on a briefing timeline.

The early legal spat mirrors the heated political dispute pitting the Trump administration against California’s Democratic leaders. Sessions, in a speech to police officers in Sacramento last week, called Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials “extremists” bent on creating an “open borders” policy. Brown, in turn, called the federal lawsuit a “political stunt” and accused Sessions of declaring “war” on California.

Mendez laid out his own schedule Monday. Attorneys for California have until Tuesday to file their opening brief arguing why they think the case should be transferred to the federal court in San Francisco. That’s where U.S. District Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California is hearing California’s challenge to a Trump administration proposal to withhold law enforcement grants from jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

“It is remarkable that the state of California would seek to delay this matter primarily so that it can avoid litigating in its state capital,” DOJ lawyers said in Monday’s filing. “There is no basis to seriously entertain this request that the case be transferred.”

California also wants “expedited discovery” that would explore the Justice Department’s push for a preliminary injunction blocking the state’s three targeted laws. Mendez told California’s lawyers to take up that issue with Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman. A briefing schedule on the preliminary injunction will depend on whether Mendez grants the state’s motion to move the case, he wrote.

Becerra has compiled a legal team composed of Department of Justice veterans and relative newcomers. Thomas Patterson, a senior assistant attorney general who has defended the state in prison-related litigation, was listed on the state’s initial filing in the case. Also on the filing were supervising deputy attorneys general Michael Newman, director of the AG’s bureau of children’s justice, and Satoshi Yanai. Deputy attorneys general Christine Chuang, Anthony Hakl and Lee Sherman are also on the court team for California.

Most of the lawyers on the federal team hail from Main Justice in Washington, not the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office. Chad Readler, the acting assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Civil Division, is listed at the top of the initial complaint. McGregor Scott, the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner just confirmed as Sacramento’s U.S. attorney, is also on the complaint.

Other members of the federal litigation team include special counsel August Flentje, a defender of the president’s travel ban orders; William Peachey, director of the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation; Erez Reuveni, assistant director of the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation; and David Shelledy, Scott’s Civil Division chief in Sacramento. Trial attorneys Lauren Bingham, Joseph Darrow and Joshua Press are also on the government’s litigation team.


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