The Obama administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is “unethical” and “intentionally deceptive.”
Harsh words, right? You’d expect that kind of criticism came from a political opponent or maybe even from a conservative commentator. But no – that’s not the case.
In fact, that stinging assessment came from a district court in Texas – the same court that blocked President Obama’s unlawful Executive Order on immigration to award legal status and federal and state benefits to nearly five million aliens.
That case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and a decision could come at any time.
Just last week, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen issued a 28-page order, posted here, that concluded the Justice Department attorneys involved in the case were “unethical” and “intentionally deceptive” and made misrepresentations when they had “knowledge of the truth.”
In the words of Judge Hanen: “The misconduct in this case was intentional, serious and material. In fact, it is hard to imagine a more serious, more calculated plan of unethical conduct.”
The Wall Street Journal notes the assertions made by DOJ attorneys during the case simply didn’t add up:
When 26 states sued to block the order in December 2014, Justice repeatedly assured Judge Hanen that the Department of Homeland Security would not start processing applications until February 2015 at the earliest. Two weeks after the injunction came down, in March, Justice was forced to admit that DHS had already granted or renewed more than 100,000 permits.
Justice has also conceded in legal filings that all its lawyers knew all along that the DHS program was underway, despite what they said in briefs and hearings. One DOJ lawyer told Judge Hanen that “I really would not expect anything between now and the date of the hearing.” As the judge notes, “How the government can categorize the granting of over 100,000 applications as not being ‘anything’ is beyond comprehension.”
Justice’s only explanation is that its lawyers either “lost focus on the fact” or “the fact receded in memory or awareness”—the fact here being realities that the DOJ was required to disclose to the court. The states weren’t able to make certain arguments or seek certain legal remedies because the program supposedly hadn’t been implemented, leaving them in a weaker legal position.
Judge Hanen found the conduct of the DOJ so troubling that he ordered all agency attorneys in Washington, D.C. to “annually attend a legal ethics course.” And he ordered Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint someone within the department to ensure compliance with his order and to come up with a plan to prevent “this unethical conduct from ever occurring again.”
It’s not the first time the government attorneys have been singled out in court for their biased behavior. Just last month, I reported on a federal appeals court judge who was hearing our case on behalf of 38 organizations which were unlawfully and unconstitutionally singled out by the IRS because of their political beliefs. At that hearing, the court was very critical of the IRS and its claim that it has instituted changes as a result of the targeting scheme. In fact, the court openly questioned whether the agency has made any significant changes to alter its unlawful behavior.
As Judge David B. Sentelle put it: “It’s hard to find the IRS to be an agency we can trust.”
And in March, another federal appeals court struck a significant blow against the IRS and ruled that the agency, along with the Justice Department, has been dragging its feet in providing key information requested in another lawsuit against the agency about the unlawful targeting scheme.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected an appeal by the administration and highlighted a very frank and telling conclusion by the trial judge:
“My impression is the government probably did something wrong in this case. Whether there’s liability or not is a legal question. However, I feel like the government is doing everything it possibly can to make this as complicated as it possibly can, to last as long as it possibly can, so that by the time there is a result, nobody is going to care except the plaintiffs. . . . I question whether or not the Department of Justice is doing justice.”
Based on what’s happening inside the Obama administration’s Justice Department, it’s clear the Department of Justice is not doing justice.
These recent court findings underscore what we have known for some time: the Justice Department is focused on settling political scores, instead of upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.
In the immigration case, the conclusion by Judge Hanen that the DOJ attorneys were “unethical” and “intentionally deceptive” is symptomatic of a pattern of behavior that appears to be the rule, rather than the exception – behavior that should trigger disbarment proceedings against the attorneys involved.
As the Wall Street Journal correctly opines, “. . . this is a constitutional challenge with major consequences for the separation of powers, and the deceit must have required the participation and coordination of dozens of political appointees and career lawyers. That suggests a serious institutional failure, not mere rogue actors.
But don’t expect to hear anything about this from the Obama administration. It continues to move forward with its 3-D strategy: Delay, Distract, and Deflect – acting like the Wizard of Oz – hoping the American people will pay no attention to what’s behind the curtain.
But thanks to insightful opinions from jurists like Judge Hanen, we can shine a spotlight on exactly what’s behind the curtain – a corrupt and unethical Obama administration that permits its lawyers to mislead both the court and opposing counsel in writing and in open court on multiple occasions.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He also serves as a member of President Trump’s legal team. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.