In an astounding, unprecedented rebuke of the Department of Justice and its attorneys, Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an order sanctioning the DOJ attorneys for their conduct in U.S. v. Texas, the challenge by 26 states to Obama's immigration policies. Judge Hanen found that they deliberately and repeatedly misled and lied to the court, violating ethical rules:
According to Hanen, the Justice Department “admitted making statements that clearly did not match the facts. It has admitted that the lawyers who made these statements had knowledge of the truth when they made these misstatements.” The only explanation DOJ had was that the lawyers “lost focus” or that the “fact[s] receded in memory or awareness,” a dubious and not very credible justification. That “lost focus” and memory problem caused the DOJ attorneys to “effectively” mislead the plaintiff states and “misdirect” the court. . . .
Hanen lists the specific statements made by DOJ lawyers in court and on conference calls that were outright lies, and then he lists all of the applicable ethics rules that the DOJ lawyers violated. Those misleading statements put “to rest any doubt regarding misconduct.” Hanen said the representations were made in “bad faith” by DOJ lawyers and breached Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b), which makes such conduct sanctionable.
Judge Hanen wisely decided not to make the American people pay for the attorneys' misconduct through imposing a fine:
He could also have awarded attorneys’ fees against the government and its DOJ attorneys. However, those fees would simply “be paid by taxpayers of the United States.” Thus, the Justice Department “would go unscathed.” There would be “no corrective effect and no motivation for the Government’s lawyers to act more appropriately in the future” because “there seems to be a lack of knowledge about or adherence to the duties of professional responsibility in the halls of the Justice Department.”
So instead, Hanen ordered the Obama administration to take a series of steps:
- Provide the court with a list of all of the aliens who were given benefits under the Obama amnesty plan;
- All DOJ attorneys stationed in Washington, D.C., who appear in the courts of any of the 26 states that filed this lawsuit must take a yearly ethics course taught by someone unaffiliated with DOJ — and the attorney general must file an annual report with Judge Hanen for five years listing all of the DOJ attorneys who have appeared in those 26 states certifying their attendance at this ethics course;
- Attorney General Loretta Lynch must file a comprehensive plan within 60 days “to prevent this unethical conduct from ever occurring again.” She must ensure that “Justice Department trial lawyers tell the truth — the entire truth”; and
- Because he believes that whatever the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ is doing “has not been effective,” Hanen ordered Lynch to inform him within 60 days of the steps she is taking to “ensure” that OPR “effectively polices the conduct of the Justice Department lawyers and appropriately disciplines those whose actions fall below the standards that the American people rightfully expect from their Department of Justice.”
Hans von Spakovsky's entire analysis of the remarkable order is well worth reading. Obama's Department of Justice attorneys, charged with representing the American people, put partisan politics above their duty, forsaking it so far as to lie to a court. Yet again for the Obama Justice Department, politics triumphed over justice. It is encouraging that thecourts are willing to keep DOJ in check, fulfilling their role under our system of separation of powers.