In another development in the ongoing feud with a federal judge hearing a challenge to President Obama’s planned immigration executive actions, the White House accused the same judge for acting out of bounds by slapping sanctions on government attorneys for alleged ethics violations.
The Justice Department hit back on a May 19 court order issued by Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas. The judge had ordered government lawyers across 26 states involved in the case to take ethics courses, barring some of them from making an appearance in his court.
In a ruling that can only be described as scathing, Judge Hanen ordered the DOJ to submit the names of the thousands of immigrants granted relief for three years under the administration’s immigration programs. The judge had issued an injunction in February 2015.
In response, the DOJ argued against the judge’s claims that government lawyers had knowingly lied to him, calling his sanctions “grossly disproportionate,” regardless if they had actually lied in court. The Justice Department added that barring the lawyers from practicing would force the federal government to spend as much as $8 million through a span of 5 years. More importantly, the judge’s ruling would disclose the identities of innocent immigrants who were not involved in the dispute in any way.
According department spokesperson Patrick Rodenbush, “The department emphatically disagrees with the sanctions orders.”
The Justice Department intends to submit an appeal to the order in anticipation of being denied an emergency stay.
The dispute compounds the bigger issue brought about by a lawsuit put forth by Texas and 25 other Republican-controlled states that challenges an executive action announced by the White House in 2014. The program would grant deportation protection to undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. These immigrants can also apply for work permits, provided they have no record of breaking the law.
More than 4 million immigrants across the United States could stand to benefit from the program. An appeals court had upheld the injunction against the case, forcing it to be submitted to the Supreme Court.
Interestingly enough, the administration is using a similar argument against the judge that he had used against the president, that is, the judge (and the president, from Hanen’s view) had overstepped his authority and imposing unnecessary costs on the government.
Critics of the president’s executive actions point out his alleged violation of the separation of powers, touching on an issue they claim should be under the jurisdiction of Congress.
Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at NYU, notes how there’s a lot of bad blood between the government’s lawyers and the judge, calling Judge Hanen’s ruling “both precipitous and excessive,” as it offered nothing in the way of an explanation as why his orders also apply to lawyers with no direct involvement in the case.