In an Opinion and Order quoting both Bridge of Spies and Miracle on 34th Street, Federal Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued an order on May 19, 2016 harshly criticizing the actions of Department of Justice lawyers appearing before him in a case involving President Obama’s immigration policy.
After Obama took executive action to prevent deportations and allow illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. legally, a coalition of states filed suit to challenge the President’s actions.
In his order, Judge Hanen states that DOJ lawyers arguing the case for the Obama administration deliberately misled the court regarding the Obama administration’s actions in response to the lawsuit.
After saying he was “disappointed to have to address the subject of lawyer behavior,” Judge Hanen wrote that DOJ lawyers have “admitted making statements that clearly did not match the facts,” and that DOJ had admitted “that the lawyers who made these statements had knowledge of the truth when they made these misstatements.” The DOJ’s only explanation of the misconduct, according to Judge Hanen, was that “its lawyers either lost focus or the facts receded in memory or awareness.”
Hanen further found that the “Government’s attorneys effectively misled the Plaintiff[s] . . . into foregoing a request for a temporary restraining order or an earlier injunction hearing.” In describing the lawyers’ conduct, Hanen issued a stinging rebuke: “Such conduct is certainly not worthy of any department whose name includes the word ‘Justice.’”
The Court declined to strike the government’s pleadings, and also declined to award attorney fees to the states, but took the somewhat unusual step of ordering that any DOJ attorney who appears in a court in any of the Plaintiff-states must attend a legal ethics course annually. The Court also revoked the pro hac vice status of the DOJ lawyers who committed the misconduct, demanded that Attorney General Loretta Lynch ensure the lawyers are investigated for misconduct, and stated his belief that a “lack of knowledge about or adherence to the duties of professional responsibility” pervades the Justice Department.
New York Times coverage is here.
The Court’s Opinion & Order is here.