The Trump Administration Has Been Sued More Than Any Other Since 1982

August 30, 2019, 11:00 AM UTC

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is racking up his lawsuits against the Trump administration. The state’s AG added yet another to his belt this week, challenging proposed legislation that would invalidate the Flores settlement, thereby enabling the administration to indefinitely detain undocumented children.  

President Trump and his administration have been sued by state attorneys general more times than any president since Ronald Reagan. As of late August, there are currently 88 ongoing multi-state lawsuits against the administration, according to the latest count from State Attorneys General Data, a database compiled by Dr. Paul Nolette, associate professor of political science at Marquette University.

This represents more than double the next highest number, 38, which is the number of times the Obama administration was sued in the president’s second term. The lawsuits against the Trump Administration have been led mainly by Democratic AGs, while the lawsuits against the Obama Administration were mostly let by Republicans coalitions, according to the database.

Nolette’s tally includes multi-state lawsuits against specific actions taken by various U.S. government departments. He defines multi-state lawsuits as those in which “multiple states filed an original complaint or petition,” instances in which “multiple states joined an existing non-state lawsuit as intervenors,” cases when “only one state appeared as a plaintiff…but a multi-state coalition filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the plaintiff state,” and “non-state cases in which a multi-state coalition sought to intervene, but the court denied the motion to intervene.” 

But which states’ Attorneys General have filed the most lawsuits against the current administration?

Part of the answer depends on how you classify state lawsuits, a definition that Nolette notes “gets surprisingly complex quickly.” In terms of multi-state lawsuits in which a state participated as a party in the lawsuit, New York takes the cake, filing 50 suits against the administration since Trump took office in January 2017. California is not far behind, with 46 suits. 

Once you add the lawsuits in which a state participated as a non-party amici and/or single state suits, these numbers quickly jump into the high 50s or low 60s. According to Becerra’s office, for example, this week’s lawsuit marked the 57th the state Attorney General’s office has filed against the administration, a count that includes both multi-state and single state lawsuits in which California participated as a party in the lawsuit.

A number of other states have also participated in more than 30 lawsuits against the administration in the past two-plus years, including Maryland with 43, Massachusetts with 41, and Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Illinois, and Connecticut taking part in between 36 and 32 suits. 

But the lawsuit that involved the greatest number of state attorneys general this year is one filed earlier this month. New York v. EPA involves 23 AGs, including the attorney general for the District of Columbia, as well as six cities. The suit seeks to block the administration from rolling back Obama-era regulations around clean energy, specifically the Clean Power Plan.

Not every state has been so heavy-handed in their criticism of the administration, however. Excluding suits in which a state participated as amici, there are four states that have not filed a single lawsuit against the Trump administration: Idaho, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and Alaska.

Despite the overall high rate at which the administration has been sued, there may be some indication that this is slowing: it faced a total of 40 lawsuits in 2017, 30 in 2018, and has faced only 19 to date this year.

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