You Mean the Dept. of Justice Has to Act Justly??
The courts are slapping Obama’s US Attorneys with reprimands and sanctions, from all parts of the country. On Thursday, federal Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas filed an extraordinary order in the immigration case (Texas v. United States), in which his earlier injunction against DHS’ implementation of President Obama’s directions to delay deportation of millions of illegal aliens, as affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, is now before the United States Supreme Court, awaiting its ruling after oral arguments. The order will require (gasp!) certain US Attorneys based in Washington to take annual courses in legal ethics for the next five years—as a sanction for repeatedly lying to him in his courtroom.
Meanwhile, in Washington itself, the US Attorneys defending the IRS against charges of selectively targeting conservative non-profits to delay or prevent their obtaining tax-exempt status also met with suspicion, if not outright hostility, from the appellate judges before whom they were arguing:
A lower-court judge had blithely accepted the IRS’s claim that the targeting had stopped, that applications for nonprofit status had been approved, and that the matter was therefore moot.
The federal judges hearing the appeal, among them David B. Sentelle and Douglas H. Ginsburg, weren’t so easily rolled. In a series of probing questions the judges ascertained that at least two of the groups that are party to the lawsuit have still not received their nonprofit approvals….
The hearing also showed the degree to which the IRS has doubled down on its outrageous revisionist history, and its excuses. IRS lawyers again claimed that the whole targeting affair came down to bad “training” and bad “guidance.” They blew off a Government Accountability Office report that last year found the IRS still had procedures that would allow it to unfairly select organizations for examinations based on religious or political viewpoint. The lawyers’ argument: We wouldn’t do such a thing. Again. Trust us.
More incredibly, the IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups, for not pushing back hard enough during the targeting. In response to complaints that the groups had been forced to hand over confidential information (information the IRS now refuses to destroy), one agency lawyer retorted: “They didn’t have to give the information to the IRS if they thought it was inappropriate, they could have said so.” Really.
An IRS lawyer rolled out the defense used by former agency official Lois Lerner that the targeting was just the unfortunate use of “inappropriate” criteria, but Judge Sentelle reminded the lawyer of the IRS’s vindictiveness. He noted that on one occasion the IRS simply shelved the application of an organization that had sued it. The agency “came to Court not having done anything to eliminate” the problem, he said, so “It’s just hard to find the IRS to be an agency we can trust, isn’t it?”
Judge Sentelle said there is a “pretty good case” that “egregious violations of the Constitution” had been committed, and he dared an IRS lawyer to “stand there with a straight face” and say otherwise…
In the Texas case, Judge Hanen was far more severe, but arguably so was the unethical conduct of the US Attorneys from the Department’s headquarters who appeared before him. You may read his order in its entirety here, and there is an excellent background summary of the whole matter here.
What I find amazing is the alacrity with which the leftist news media have leapt to the defense of the “Justice” Department, and accused Judge Hanen of “violating the privacy” of illegal aliens. What did he do? He ordered the Government to file under seal a list of all the aliens to whom it had given deportation extensions while its attorneys were telling him in court that no such extensions were being granted, and that nothing was happening. Imagine that: their privacy is violated because their names and contact information will appear in a document that no one will be permitted to look at until the case is over, and then only if a plaintiff State makes its case to Judge Hanen that it needs access to the names of the immigrants in its borders who received illegal deferments in order to enforce its laws.
In other words, the IRS’s intrusive demands into the names and addresses of donors to non-profit organizations—information which it refuses to destroy now that it has illegally collected it—are as nothing compared to a judge’s order to file under seal a list of those who benefited from the Government’s lying. Go figure.
Still other leftist sites don’t see anything so wrong with what the attorneys did, since it was only to help out innocent “teenagers and young immigrants” who were “caught up in a bureaucratic screwup”. Sure—lying repeatedly to a federal judge is just a “bureaucratic screwup”, and people who entered the country illegally can’t be made to run the risk of exposure “to hostile State governments.” Ethics, shmethics—if you’re a leftist, you do what you gotta do to get what you want.
Even a leftist law professor wonders if Judge Hanen has “jurisdiction” over the DoJ lawyers who practice in states outside of his own—in other words, a judge should be powerless to remedy the consequences of a fraud on his court that injured twenty-six States, and must focus on just the attorneys in his own district (who, Judge Hanen found, were among the few government attorneys who did not lie or misrepresent the facts to him, and whom he consequently exempted from the sanctions he ordered).
Oh, yes—and the Government itself? Turns out that it “strongly disagrees” with Judge Hanen’s order. What did you expect?
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