Paxton Contends SCOTUS Ruling Helps SB 4 Case

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton | Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced last week that he filed a notice of supplemental authority with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in response to the Supreme Court ruling in DeVillier v. Texas, claiming that the decision will help the Lone Star State in a legal battle with the federal government over border security.

The attorney general wrote in a news release that his office plans to use the ruling, in which the Supreme Court sided with farmer Richie DeVillier and more than 120 other landowners against the State of Texas, to help explain why SB 4 should be allowed to remain in place.

DeVillier v. Texas involves requests by its plaintiffs for financial compensation after DeVillier’s fifth-generation family farm was flooded due to a 3-foot barrier placed by the state near his property, as previously reported by DX.

SB 4, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in December, would make unlawful entry into the state a crime and allow state and local law enforcement officers to apprehend anyone suspected of violating the law.

The U.S. Department of Justice promptly filed a lawsuit attempting to stop SB 4 from taking effect, arguing that the state could not enact the law since the management of immigration is the sole right of the federal government, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Texas has argued that the state was forced to pass the legislation due to the federal government’s failure to act on the purported “invasion” happening at the southern border.

Now, the attorney general believes the recent Supreme Court ruling can benefit the defendants in the fight over SB 4.

The Supreme Court, which ruled 9-0 in favor of Devillier pursuing a redress under existing state laws, wrote in the decision that “[c]onstitutional rights do not typically come with a built-in cause of action” and are instead “generally invoked defensively,” according to the attorney’s general news release.

Paxton contends that the ruling in DeVillier v. Texas could help support the arguments made by the state in its lawsuit over SB 4 since Congress has not enacted a cause of action to allow the lawsuit to move forward.

“Like many cases before it, DeVillier rebuts the district court’s theory that the federal government can offensively enforce another constitutional provision— here, the Supremacy Clause — absent a statutory cause of action enacted by Congress,” explained the attorney general in his notice.

A decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the battle over SB 4 is still pending.

Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielsen said during an April 3 hearing with a Fifth Circuit panel that “maybe Texas went too far” with the passing of SB 4, noting that the law was created to push “the line of Supreme Court precedent.”

“That’s the question this court is going to have to decide, but that’s the context of which we are here [sic],” he said, as reported by DX.

The court adjourned the hearing without indicating whether the law will be allowed to take effect or when the panel will present a ruling.

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