On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions happily announced another Trump administration victory regarding the federal court’s ruling in the Eastern District of California which declared California State Senate Bill 50 (SB 50) unconstitutional.
In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil action in one of the most liberal courts in the country, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The DOJ lawsuit was filed against the State of California, the Governor of California Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., and the California State Lands Commission, seeking a declaration that SB 50, signed enacted into law in October 2017, is unconstitutional. Sessions and the DOJ were also seeking the court’s injunction against the implementation of this state law.
The California law gives a state agency the power to block the sale, donation or exchange of federal lands by the federal government to any other person or entity. SB 50 also seeks to penalize any person up to $5,000 who knowingly filed real estate records pertaining to a federal land transfer unless the California government certified that the transfer complies with state law.
“In other words the federal government wishing to sell or transfer federal land must get permission from California’s state government,” said political strategist and attorney Michael Baker.
In response, the District Court for the Eastern District of California found that SB 50 interfered with the federal government’s constitutional authority to convey federal land in the State of California. Under a range of federal laws, Congress has empowered federal agencies with the responsibility to determine when, to whom, for what purpose, and under what conditions federal interests in property will be conveyed.
Federal conveyances serve a broad range of purposes such as supporting national defense, promoting local economic development, furthering land conservation, or otherwise providing important public benefits, according to DOJ officials.
In his statement, Attorney General Sessions noted:
“The court’s ruling is a firm rejection of California’s assertion that, by legislation, it could dictate how and when the federal government sells federal land. This was a stunning assertion of constitutional power by California, and it was properly and promptly dismissed by the district judge.
“It is unfortunate that, in the interim, California forced both the Justice Department and the court to spend valuable time and resources to dispose of its baseless position.
“This is the third time in the last few months that a federal court has struck down as unconstitutional all or parts of a law that California designed to frustrate federal law. This trend is concerning, and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the rightful duties of the federal government in court, and ensure that no state, including California, subverts the enforcement of federal law.”
With the 2018 election day approaching in a matter of days, California voters have an opportunity of choosing a new governor, either far-left Democrat Gavin Newsom or conservative Republican John Cox. While most Republicans believe in states’ rights, they draw the line when states attempt to cross the line separating federal and state jurisdiction.
“Unfortunately, the governments of a number of states have attempted to ignore or hinder federal agencies performing their constitutional duties. They have to learn, first, that states cannot pick and choose which laws to obey and which laws to dismiss. That’s not how it works,” Mike Baker noted.