23 May Judge’s Order of Ethics Classes for DOJ Attorneys
Federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen issued an order last week requiring Department of Justice attorneys to take ethics classes, as a result of their deliberate deception of the court. This order is in the case involving 26 states that challenged the constitutionality of President Obama’s 2014 executive order on immigration, commonly called DAPA (different from DACA).
Judge Hanen’s order was extremely rare and expansive, and a stern and embarrassing rebuke to a profession and institution that is supposed to hold itself to the highest ethical standard.
The order applies to all of the attorneys employed by the DOJ who wish to practice in the 26 states that are party to this litigation. Hundreds of lawyers.
And Judge Hanen apparently did not believe a one-time ethics class would suffice, as he ordered these classes be annual and at least three hours long, each time. While three hours a year may seem nuisance level, the fact of the order is consequential.
Hanen lamented that he could not disbar the lawyers involved, but he did revoke the pro hac vice status of the out of (Texas) state lawyers, so those lawyers not licensed in Texas cannot appear in Texas courts.
Judge Hanen’s order, expansive as it is, could have been harsher. He had the power to impose the “ultimate sanction” of striking the government’s pleadings. Which in plain English means he could have rejected all of the government’s documents filed in this litigation, leaving the federal government unable to defend itself in this case. He declined to do this on the noble and meritorious grounds that the issue presented was important and could not be resolved by the federal appeals courts without the government’s pleadings.
So what made Judge Hanen so mad?
The EO at issue in this case decreed that the federal government would grant “deferred action” (would not pursue deportation) to illegal immigrants whose children are citizens. Federal law does not say that, but President Obama rewrote federal law in his order. That’s why the states are suing, to argue that Obama had no constitutional authority to issue that order.
The DOJ’s lawyers’ deception was that they “made statements that did not match the facts” (how is that for lawyer doublespeak?), when they led the court and the states filing the lawsuit to think that DHS was not implementing that order, when it was.
Because the DOJ said that DHS was not carrying out the order, the states did not file for a TRO (temporary restraining order), as they surely would have had the DOJ been honest. The states lost out on the practical step provided by law, of trying to stop the DHS from doing what the states said was illegal, while the case made its way through our courts.
At LCWT we always point out “why it matters to you.”
The same attitude that led the President to issue an executive order that changes federal law without Congressional approval, is the attitude displayed by the DOJ attorneys who misled a federal district court about whether the DHS was implementing that EO. It is the “we know best and we are above the law” attitude. It is an attitude of disrespect for the law, disrespect for the system of government spelled out in the constitution, and ultimately disrespect for the American people who believe that the rule of law matters.
Whether you love or hate DAPA or you never heard of it before you read this, the case matters because a federal court judge took a stand against lawlessness and in support of the integrity of the judicial system that’s required in a nation of laws not men. Preserving America’s greatness requires preserving a justice system worthy of the American people.