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California Attorney General Files Nine Lawsuits In One Day As Trump Leaves Office

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra  during a press conference last year.
Stephen Lam
Getty Images
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during a press conference last year.

On the final full day of Donald Trump's presidency, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra cemented his own legacy as one of Trump’s fiercest legal adversaries.

Becerra filed nine new lawsuits Tuesday against the Trump administration, targeting efforts to roll back greenhouse gas emission regulations and the Endangered Species Act, among others.

“We have held the Trump Administration accountable time and again for their failure to follow the rules or respect our nation’s environmental laws,” Becerra said in a statement. “It will take time to unwind the havoc the Trump Administration has wrought. That’s why the nine lawsuits we filed today are so important.”

Becerra will finish his time as California's attorney general having filed 122 lawsuits against the Trump administration, an average of one every two weeks during Trump's time in office.

The attorney general has been tapped by President-Elect Joe Biden to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The position requires senate confirmation, though a date has not yet been set. With Democrats barely controlling the Senate, Becerra’s nomination is more likely to move forward.

The final lawsuits represent the “natural culmination” of Becerra’s aggressive tack on Trump, said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson.

“That’s part of the reason he was appointed,” Levinson said. “I think [former] Gov. [Jerry] Brown absolutely decided: ‘I’m going to appoint Attorney General Becerra because I want California to be the capital of the resistance.”

But the incoming Biden administration has vowed to immediately undo many of Trump’s environmental and immigration policies. So why file all this last-minute litigation?

Levinson says it’s not all politics — there’s an apparent legal strategy too.

“There’s always the possibility that the Biden administration could reverse course, but a court could say, ‘No, you can’t.’ So, you’d still want the lawsuit there that tries to undo the Trump administration actions that way,” she said.

There’s also plain old politics. Becerra elevated his national profile by filing a grand total of 122 lawsuits against the Trump administration, which may have played a part in his nomination to serve as the nation’s first Latino Health and Human Services secretary.

“I think Attorney General Becerra is an ambitious person,” Levinson said. “I’m not saying there’s anything frivolous about these suits, but it’s certainly been decent politics also for him to continue with these suits.”

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