Think The Federal Courts Are Going To Save Our Republic From Trump? — Guess Again! — Trump (Or, More Accurately The Heritage Foundation) Is About To Remake Them In His Own Image!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-judicial-nominees-federalist-society_us_59497166e4b04c5e50256f0c?lq

HuffPost reports:

“WASHINGTON ― Most days, it seems like President Donald Trump is sabotaging his own agenda, one tweet at a time. But the White House has been quietly plowing ahead in one area that will affect generations of people: the courts.

Trump is unbelievably well-positioned to fill up federal courts with lifetime judges. He inherited a whopping 108 court vacancies when he became president ― double the number of vacancies President Barack Obama inherited when he took office.

The reason Trump gets to fill so many seats is partly because Obama was slow to fill court vacancies early in his tenure. But the main reason is Republicans’ years-long strategy of denying votes to Obama’s court picks. They refused to recommend judicial nominees, filibustered others, used procedural rules to drag out the confirmation process and, by Obama’s final year, blocked nominees they had recommended just to prevent him from filling more seats.

ALISSA SCHELLER/HUFFPOST

Court vacancies have only increased since Trump took office, as older judges have steadily retired. Trump has already nominated more than three times as many judges as Obama had at this point in his presidency ― 21 compared with six for Obama.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, Trump’s court picks will have a relatively easy time getting confirmed, too. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has hinted that he may tweak the committee’s rules to make it easier for Republicans to advance some of Trump’s nominees without Democratic support. And once nominees make it to the Senate floor, it takes only 51 votes to advance their nominations and confirm them. There are 52 Republicans, which means they could confirm all of Trump’s district and circuit court nominees without a single Democratic vote.

It used to take 60 votes to advance district and circuit court nominees, but Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule in 2013 in order to get around a Republican blockade on Obama’s court picks. Now Trump benefits from that change.

It is, in effect, the perfect combination of factors for conservatives eager to tilt the nation’s courts to the right. Trump has piles of seats to fill, a list of nominees recommended to the White House by outside conservative groups, and a Republican Senate eager to confirm them.

“It is a huge opportunity,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in judicial nominations. “The question is how quickly they will move in the future. A lot of what they’ve done so far is low-hanging fruit and pretty easy to do.”

ALISSA SCHELLER/HUFFPOST

A good chunk of Trump’s judicial nominees so far have come through recommendations from The Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization. Its executive vice president, Leonard Leo, was instrumental in helping the White House put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. He recommended Gorsuch to Trump last fall and took a temporary leave from his job earlier this year to help prepare Gorsuch for his Senate confirmation hearing.

Leo also gave Trump a list of names of potential judicial picks that conservatives would like to see on the federal bench. Trump has already nominated several of them.

One of them is John Bush, a Kentucky lawyer who runs a local chapter of The Federalist Society. Trump nominated Bush, 52, last month to a lifetime post on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Progressive groups are vowing to fight his confirmation given some of his past remarks, which include comparing abortion to slavery and referring to them as “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” Bush has also said he strongly disagrees with same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and proclaimed “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.

Damien Schiff, also a member of The Federalist Society, is Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The 37-year-old attorney at the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation would serve a 15-year term if confirmed. He came under fire for calling Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy “a judicial prostitute” on a blog several years ago. He has also criticized efforts to prevent bullying of LGBTQ students, referring to messages of equality as “teaching ‘gayness’ in schools,” and has argued that states should be allowed to criminalize “consensual sodomy.”

Both of those nominees had their Senate confirmation hearings last week. They’re now waiting for the Judiciary Committee to reconvene and vote out their nominations.

It’s not unusual for a president to consult with outside groups for potential judicial nominees. What’s different, says Tobias, is how heavily Trump seems to be relying on this particular group versus working directly with senators for judicial recommendations from their states, which is the standard path.

“I think Leonard Leo is just feeding him those people,” he said. “There are real questions about that, whether that’s good for the courts and gets us the finest nominees.”

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Read the entire article at the above link.

Remember, folks, these are lifetime appointments, so although, one way or another, Trump will eventually be gone, his judges will be around for decades. And, because Democrats can’t win Senate elections, they have lost their power to exert any influence whatsoever over Trump’s choices.

PWS

06-22-17

 

Michael Gerson Describes “Trumpism!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-gops-hard-messy-options-for-destroying-trumpism/2017/06/19/d6483a56-5517-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?utm_term=.2718b2e3055d

In  a Washington Post op-ed, Gerson writes:

“Nearly 150 days into the Trump era, no non-delusional conservative can be happy with the direction of events or pleased with the options going forward.

President Trump is remarkably unpopular, particularly with the young (among whom his approval is underwater by a remarkable 48 percentage points in one poll). And the reasons have little to do with elitism or media bias.

Trump has been ruled by compulsions, obsessions and vindictiveness, expressed nearly daily on Twitter. He has demonstrated an egotism that borders on solipsism. His political skills as president have been close to nonexistent. His White House is divided, incompetent and chaotic, and key administration jobs remain unfilled. His legislative agenda has gone nowhere. He has told constant, childish, refuted, uncorrected lies, and demanded and habituated deception among his underlings. He has humiliated and undercut his staff while requiring and rewarding flattery. He has promoted self-serving conspiracy theories. He has displayed pathetic, even frightening, ignorance on policy matters foreign and domestic. He has inflicted his ethically challenged associates on the nation. He is dead to the poetry of language and to the nobility of the political enterprise, viewing politics as conquest rather than as service.

Trump has made consistent appeals to prejudice based on religion and ethnicity, and associated the Republican Party with bias. He has stoked tribal hostilities. He has carelessly fractured our national unity. He has attempted to undermine respect for any institution that opposes or limits him — be it the responsible press, the courts or the intelligence community. He has invited criminal investigation through his secrecy and carelessness. He has publicly attempted to intimidate law enforcement. He has systematically alarmed our allies and given comfort to authoritarians. He promised to emancipate the world from American moral leadership — and has kept that pledge.

For many Republicans and conservatives, there is apparently no last straw, with offenses mounting bale by bale. The argument goes: Trump is still superior to Democratic rule — which would deliver apocalyptic harm — and thus anything that hurts Trump is bad for the republic. He is the general, so shut up and salute. What, after all, is the conservative endgame other than Trump’s success?

This is the recommendation of sycophancy based on hysteria. At some point, hope for a new and improved Trump deteriorates into unreason. The idea that an alliance with Trump will end anywhere but disaster is a delusion. Both individuals and parties have long-term interests that are served by integrity, honor and sanity. Both individuals and the Republican Party are being corrupted and stained by their embrace of Trump. The endgame of accommodation is to be morally and politically discredited. Those committed to this approach warn of national decline — and are practically assisting it. They warn of decadence — and provide refreshments at the orgy.

So what is the proper objective for Republicans and conservatives? It is the defeat of Trumpism, preferably without the destruction of the GOP itself. And how does that happen?”

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Other than that, Trump’s done a really fine job.

I highly recommend reading the conclusion to Gerson’s column by clicking the above link.

PWS

06-20-17

JOINING THE CLUB: Sessions “Lawyers Up!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/attorney-general-sessions-retains-a-personal-attorney/2017/06/20/698d9828-55f0-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_sessionslawyer-941pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7a3bb2306c43

Sari Horwitz reports in the Washington Post:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under fire in recent months for his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race, has retained the services of Washington lawyer Charles J. Cooper, a longtime friend.

Cooper was seen sitting behind Sessions when he testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump and Russia.

“I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,” Cooper wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

Cooper, a partner with his own firm, Cooper & Kirk, would not say when he was retained by Sessions or whether he is representing Sessions in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump and Russia. Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump on the campaign trail, was a top adviser to Trump during his race for president.

Cooper also assisted Sessions with his January confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing those preparations in an interview with The Post at the time.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, described Cooper as “the attorney general’s longtime friend and counsel.”

The National Law Journal first reported that Cooper is now Sessions’s personal attorney.

Cooper, who clerked for Justice William H. Rehnquist on the Supreme Court, served in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. He was also a partner at McGuireWoods and at Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.

Cooper was also under consideration to serve as the Justice Department’s solicitor general. He withdrew his name in February, citing his concern after watching Sessions go through the confirmation process to become attorney general.

“After witnessing the treatment that my friend Jeff Sessions, a decent and honorable man who bears only good will and good cheer to everyone he meets, had to endure at the hands of a partisan opposition that will say anything and do anything to advance their political interests, I am unwilling to subject myself, my family and my friends to such a process,” Cooper said in a statement at the time.”

********************************************

Read the complete article at the above link.

I think Cooper confuses “geniality” with “goodwill.” That Sessions is a bearer of “goodwill” would be news to most blacks, hispanics, immigrants, migrants, and LGBT individuals in the U.S. Yes, we’ve all noted that he is “genial.” But the South has been famous for producing polite, charming, genial white politicians who spent careers making sure that African Americans were denied their legal and constitutional rights, their human dignity, and their rights to fully participate in American society. Actions speak louder than words. And, since assuming the office of Attorney General, Sessions’s actions have been geared specifically at implementing a nationalist agenda inconsistent with the interests of many Americans, particularly minorities, immigrants, and the LGBT community.

As I have said numerous times over the past five months, the Trump Administration has been a “lawyer’s dream.” Prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, and legal reporters have all been very busy, and that’s not likely to change.

PWS

06-20-17

 

RELAX, Cabinet Members! — Supremes Say No Monetary Damages For Unconstitutional Acts! — Ziglar v. Abbasi

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1358_6khn.pdf

The full opinion is at the above link.  Here’s the Court’s “Detailed Syllabus,” which, of course, is NOT part of the opinion:

Syllabus

ZIGLAR v. ABBASI ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SECOND CIRCUIT

No. 15–1358. Argued January 18, 2017—Decided June 19, 2017*

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Federal Government ordered hundreds of illegal aliens to be taken into custody and held pending a determination whether a particular detainee had connections to terrorism. Respondents, six men of Arab or South Asian descent, were detained for periods of three to six months in a federal facility in Brooklyn. After their release, they were removed from the United States. They then filed this putative class action against petitioners, two groups of federal officials. The first group consisted of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, for- mer Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, and former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar (Executive Officials). The second group consisted of the facili- ty’s warden and assistant warden Dennis Hasty and James Sherman (Wardens). Respondents sought damages for constitutional viola- tions under the implied cause of action theory adopted in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388, alleging that peti- tioners detained them in harsh pretrial conditions for a punitive pur- pose, in violation of the Fifth Amendment; that petitioners did so be- cause of their actual or apparent race, religion, or national origin, in violation of the Fifth Amendment; that the Wardens subjected them to punitive strip searches, in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments; and that the Wardens knowingly allowed the guards to abuse them, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Respondents also brought a claim under 42 U. S. C. §1985(3), which forbids certain

——————

*Together with No. 15–1359, Ashcroft, Former Attorney General, et al. v. Abbasi et al., and No. 15–1363, Hasty et al. v. Abbasi et al., also on certiorari to the same court.

2

ZIGLAR v. ABBASI Syllabus

conspiracies to violate equal protection rights. The District Court dismissed the claims against the Executive Officials but allowed the claims against the Wardens to go forward. The Second Circuit af- firmed in most respects as to the Wardens but reversed as to the Ex- ecutive Officials, reinstating respondents’ claims.

Held: The judgment is reversed in part and vacated and remanded in part.

789 F. 3d 218, reversed in part and vacated and remanded in part. JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to

Part IV–B, concluding:
1. The limited reach of the Bivens action informs the decision

whether an implied damages remedy should be recognized here. Pp. 6–14.

(a) In 42 U. S. C. §1983, Congress provided a specific damages remedy for plaintiffs whose constitutional rights were violated by state officials, but Congress provided no corresponding remedy for constitutional violations by agents of the Federal Government. In 1971, and against this background, this Court recognized in Bivens an implied damages action to compensate persons injured by federal officers who violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. In the following decade, the Court allowed Bivens-type remedies twice more, in a Fifth Amend- ment gender-discrimination case, Davis v. Passman, 442 U. S. 228, and in an Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause case, Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14. These are the only cases in which the Court has approved of an implied damages remedy un- der the Constitution itself. Pp. 6–7.

(b) Bivens, Davis, and Carlson were decided at a time when the prevailing law assumed that a proper judicial function was to “pro- vide such remedies as are necessary to make effective” a statute’s purpose. J. I. Case Co. v. Borak, 377 U. S. 426, 433. The Court has since adopted a far more cautious course, clarifying that, when decid- ing whether to recognize an implied cause of action, the “determina- tive” question is one of statutory intent. Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U. S. 275, 286. If a statute does not evince Congress’ intent “to create the private right of action asserted,” Touche Ross & Co. v. Redington, 442 U. S. 560, 568, no such action will be created through judicial mandate. Similar caution must be exercised with respect to damages actions implied to enforce the Constitution itself. Bivens is well- settled law in its own context, but expanding the Bivens remedy is now considered a “disfavored” judicial activity. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. 662, 675.

When a party seeks to assert an implied cause of action under the Constitution, separation-of-powers principles should be central to the

Cite as: 582 U. S. ____ (2017) 3

Syllabus

analysis. The question is whether Congress or the courts should de- cide to authorize a damages suit. Bush v. Lucas, 462 U. S. 367, 380. Most often it will be Congress, for Bivens will not be extended to a new context if there are “ ‘special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress.’ ” Carlson, supra, at 18. If there are sound reasons to think Congress might doubt the efficacy or necessity of a damages remedy as part of the system for enforcing the law and correcting a wrong, courts must refrain from creating that kind of remedy. An alternative remedial structure may also limit the Judiciary’s power to infer a new Bivens cause of action. Pp. 8–14.

2. Considering the relevant special factors here, a Bivens-type rem- edy should not be extended to the claims challenging the confinement conditions imposed on respondents pursuant to the formal policy adopted by the Executive Officials in the wake of the September 11 attacks. These “detention policy claims” include the allegations that petitioners violated respondents’ due process and equal protection rights by holding them in restrictive conditions of confinement, and the allegations that the Wardens violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by subjecting respondents to frequent strip searches. The detention policy claims do not include the guard-abuse claim against Warden Hasty. Pp. 14–23.

(a) The proper test for determining whether a claim arises in a new Bivens context is as follows. If the case is different in a mean- ingful way from previous Bivens cases decided by this Court, then the context is new. Meaningful differences may include, e.g., the rank of the officers involved; the constitutional right at issue; the extent of judicial guidance for the official conduct; the risk of disruptive intru- sion by the Judiciary into the functioning of other branches; or the presence of potential special factors not considered in previous Bivens cases. Respondents’ detention policy claims bear little resemblance to the three Bivens claims the Court has approved in previous cases. The Second Circuit thus should have held that this was a new Bivens context and then performed a special factors analysis before allowing this damages suit to proceed. Pp. 15–17.

(b)The special factors here indicate that Congress, not the courts, should decide whether a damages action should be allowed.

With regard to the Executive Officials, a Bivens action is not “a proper vehicle for altering an entity’s policy,” Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61, 74, and is not designed to hold officers responsible for acts of their subordinates, see Iqbal, supra, at 676. Even an action confined to the Executive Officers’ own discrete con- duct would call into question the formulation and implementation of a high-level executive policy, and the burdens of that litigation could prevent officials from properly discharging their duties, see Cheney v.

4

ZIGLAR v. ABBASI Syllabus

United States Dist. Court for D. C., 542 U. S. 367, 382. The litigation process might also implicate the discussion and deliberations that led to the formation of the particular policy, requiring courts to interfere with sensitive Executive Branch functions. See Clinton v. Jones, 520 U. S. 681, 701.

Other special factors counsel against extending Bivens to cover the detention policy claims against any of the petitioners. Because those claims challenge major elements of the Government’s response to the September 11 attacks, they necessarily require an inquiry into na- tional-security issues. National-security policy, however, is the pre- rogative of Congress and the President, and courts are “reluctant to intrude upon” that authority absent congressional authorization. Department of Navy v. Egan, 484 U. S. 518, 530. Thus, Congress’ failure to provide a damages remedy might be more than mere over- sight, and its silence might be more than “inadvertent.” Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487 U. S. 412, 423. That silence is also relevant and telling here, where Congress has had nearly 16 years to extend “the kind of remedies [sought by] respondents,” id., at 426, but has not done so. Respondents also may have had available “ ‘other alternative forms of judicial relief,’ ” Minneci v. Pollard, 565 U. S. 118, 124, including in- junctions and habeas petitions.

The proper balance in situations like this, between deterring con- stitutional violations and freeing high officials to make the lawful de- cisions necessary to protect the Nation in times of great peril, is one for the Congress to undertake, not the Judiciary. The Second Circuit thus erred in allowing respondents’ detention policy claims to proceed under Bivens. Pp. 17–23.

3. The Second Circuit also erred in allowing the prisoner abuse claim against Warden Hasty to go forward without conducting the required special factors analysis. Respondents’ prisoner abuse alle- gations against Warden Hasty state a plausible ground to find a con- stitutional violation should a Bivens remedy be implied. But the first question is whether the claim arises in a new Bivens context. This claim has significant parallels to Carlson, which extended Bivens to cover a failure to provide medical care to a prisoner, but this claim nevertheless seeks to extend Carlson to a new context. The constitu- tional right is different here: Carlson was predicated on the Eighth Amendment while this claim was predicated on the Fifth. The judi- cial guidance available to this warden with respect to his supervisory duties was less developed. There might have been alternative reme- dies available. And Congress did not provide a standalone damages remedy against federal jailers when it enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act some 15 years after Carlson. Given this Court’s ex- pressed caution about extending the Bivens remedy, this context

Cite as: 582 U. S. ____ (2017) 5

Syllabus

must be regarded as a new one. Pp. 23–26.
4. Petitioners are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to re-

spondents’ claims under 42 U. S. C. §1985(3). Pp. 26–32.
(a) Assuming that respondents’ allegations are true and well pleaded, the question is whether a reasonable officer in petitioners’ position would have known the alleged conduct was an unlawful con- spiracy. The qualified-immunity inquiry turns on the “objective legal reasonableness” of the official’s acts, Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, 819, “assessed in light of the legal rules that were ‘clearly estab- lished’ at the time [the action] was taken,” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U. S. 635, 639. If it would have been clear to a reasonable officer that the alleged conduct “was unlawful in the situation he confront- ed,” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U. S. 194, 202, the defendant officer is not entitled to qualified immunity. But if a reasonable officer might not have known that the conduct was unlawful, then the officer is enti-

tled to qualified immunity. Pp. 27–29.
(b) Here, reasonable officials in petitioners’ positions would not

have known with sufficient certainty that §1985(3) prohibited their joint consultations and the resulting policies. There are two reasons. First, the conspiracy is alleged to have been among officers in the same Department of the Federal Government. And there is no clear- ly established law on the issue whether agents of the same executive department are distinct enough to “conspire” with one another within the meaning of 42 U. S. C. §1985(3). Second, open discussion among federal officers should be encouraged to help those officials reach con- sensus on department policies, so there is a reasonable argument that §1985(3) liability should not extend to cases like this one. As these considerations indicate, the question whether federal officials can be said to “conspire” in these kinds of situations is sufficiently open that the officials in this suit would not have known that §1985(3) applied to their discussions and actions. It follows that rea- sonable officers in petitioners’ positions would not have known with any certainty that the alleged agreements were forbidden by that statute. Pp. 29–32.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, IV–A, and V, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV–B, in which ROB- ERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concur- ring in part and concurring in the judgment. BREYER, J., filed a dis- senting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

**********************************************

It was an odd opinion in that only six Justices participated, so the majority was 4-2. The majority opinion was Justice Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito. But, the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito also wrote or joined in separate concurring opinions. Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joined.

Justices Sotomayer, Kagan, and Gorsuch sat this one out. Justice Sotomayor previously was a Judge on the Second Circuit at the time this case was before that court. Justice Kagan worked on the case as Solicitor General. And, Justice Gorsuch arrived too late to participate in the argument and deliberations.

However, I doubt that there would be a difference in result with all nine Justices voting. Justice Gorsuch almost certainly would side with the majority opinion’s “strict construction” of liability. Even assuming that Justices Sotomayor and Kagan would side with the dissenters, there would still be a 5-4 majority for the approach set forth in Justice Kennedy’s opinion.

Reading between the lines here, I think that the whole Bivens concept is “on the rocks” before this Court.  The current, more conservative, Court clearly wishes Bivens were never decided and wants to limit it essentially to its facts. With a GOP President, any future appointments are likely to turn the tide even more solidly for overruling or strictly limiting Bivens.

I must admit to having mixed feelings. As a Government Senior Executive I was subject to several (totally unfounded) Bivens suits. I was greatly relieved and totally delighted when the doctrines of absolute and implied immunity got me dismissed in my private capacity. I also took out a standard Government approved “Bivens liability insurance policy” just in case.

On the other hand, I’d have to say that the specter of being involved in Bivens litigation was something that I and almost all of the other senior government officials whom I advised and worked with, up to and including Cabinet officers, had Bivens in the back of our “collective minds” in determining actions and policies. So, there was at least some “deterrent value” in the Bivens case. Moreover, it was an effective tool for pointing out the necessity for line enforcement officers, whom I often trained or advised, to keep their actions within clearly established constitutional boundries.

The Court suggests that it would be best for Congress to address this subject. But, Bivens has been around for many years and Congress has never addressed it. So, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Interestingly, among those high-ranking officials who were relieved of any liability in this case were former Attorney General John Ashcroft and then FBI Director Robert Mueller.

PWS

06-19-17

 

 

EOIR INVESTS ELEVEN NEW U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES — PRIVATE SECTOR TOTALLY SHUT OUT!

Here are the bios of the new U.S. Immigration Judges:

IJInvestiture06162017

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This brings the total number of sitting U.S. Immigration Judges to 326. Congratulations to the new Judges, and please don’t forget the due process mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts!

Unfortunately, however, this continues the trend of creating a one-sided U.S. Immigration Court which basically has excluded from the 21st Century Immigration Judiciary those who gained all or most of their experience representing respondents, teaching, or writing in the public sector. It’s not particularly surprising that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has expressed a strong enforcement bias, would prefer to “go to the Government well” for all or most of his selections.

However, the real problem here is with the DOJ during the Obama Administration.  With a chance to fill perhaps a record number of U.S. Immigration Judge positions over eight years, and to create an evenly balanced, diverse Immigration Judiciary in the process, they not only turned the hiring process in to a ridiculous two-year average cycle, but also selected 88% of the candidates from Government backgrounds.

Why would someone take two years for a selection process that selects from a limited inside pool anyway? And, why would you lead outside applicants to take the time to apply, believing they had a fair chance of competing, when the process obviously was “fixed” in favor of insiders? Sort of reminds me of the discussion of the labor certification recruitment process that we recently had in my Immigration Law & Policy Class at Georgetown Law!

Just more ways in which the “Due Process Vision” of the U.S. Immigration Courts has basically been trashed by the last three Administrations!

PWS

06-19-17

VEEP “LAWYERS UP” — KUSHNER UNDER INVESTIGATION, AS RUSSIA PROBE EXPANDS! Trump’s Call For “Civil Tone” Lasts About 10 Min As “Divider-In-Chief” Unleashes Ill-Advised Tweet Barrage!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-lashes-out-at-russia-probe-pence-hires-a-lawyer/2017/06/15/aee870ce-51da-11e7-be25-3a519335381c_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_trumpobstruct-8pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.95044b73fe55

The Washington Post reports:

A heightened sense of unease gripped the White House on Thursday, as President Trump lashed out at reports that he’s under scrutiny over whether he obstructed justice, aides repeatedly deflected questions about the probe and Vice President Pence acknowledged hiring a private lawyer to handle fallout from investigations into Russian election meddling.

Pence’s decision to hire Richard Cullen, a Richmond-based lawyer who previously served as a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, came less than a month after Trump hired his own private lawyer.

The hiring of Cullen, whom an aide said Pence was paying for himself, was made public a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is widening his investigation to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

A defiant Trump at multiple points Thursday expressed his frustration with reports about that development, tweeting that he is the subject of “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history,” and one that he said is being led by “some very bad and conflicted people.”

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Read the complete story at the above link.
Shortly after Trump took office, I predicted that while he was unlikely to be able to keep most of his promises about “job creation,” he was likely to be a boon for at least one segment of our economy:  the legal industry.
By the time this ends, however it ends, Trump will be ruing the day that he got rid of Jim Comey (who, apparently, wasn’t investigating him). While Trump and his White House and Cabinet cronies have had little but open contempt for government service and public servants, he’s finding out the hard way that lots of public servants take their jobs and their oath to uphold the Constitution seriously, and that they are very good at what they do. This isn’t “reality TV,” SNL, or some real estate deal where he can schmooze and BS his way through. And, he’s not going to be able to “settle up” by throwing a few million on the table and expecting everyone to go away happy. Nope. This is the “reality” of being President of the US. And, Trump is quickly cementing his place in history as the most unqualified individual ever elected to the job.
PWS
06-16-17

THE ASYLUMIST: The Importance Of Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect & Collegiality In Immigration Court

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/06/08/us-versus-them-in-immigration-court/#comments

Jason Dzubow writes in The Asylumist:

“Unlike perhaps some areas of law, immigration law has a strong ideological component. Many of the attorneys who represent immigrants do so because they believe in human rights and they want to keep families together. For such attorneys—and I include myself among them—our work represents an expression of our moral and/or religious values. In other words, it’s more than just a job; it’s a mission.

Does this make it harder for us to work cooperatively with opposing counsel (DHS)? Is it more urgent that we do so? For me, the answer to both these questions is yes. When our clients’ lives and futures are on the line, it can be very difficult to maintain a cordial relationship with a government attorney who is fighting to have that client deported. But even in the hardest-fought case, there is value in maintaining lines of communication. For example, even where the DHS attorney will not compromise and is fighting all-out for removal, there still exists the possibility of stipulating to evidence and witnesses, and of a post-order stay of removal. Severing the connection does not serve the client (though it may satisfy the ego), and certainly won’t help future clients, and so to me, there is little value in burning bridges, even when I believe DHS’s position is unjust.

All that said, there is no doubt that we will often disagree with our opposing counsel, and that we will fight as hard as we can for our clients. This is also a duty under the Rules of Professional Conduct (zealous advocacy), and for many of us, it is an expression of our deeply held belief in Justice.

With the ascension of the Trump Administration, and its more aggressive approach towards non-citizens, I believe it is more important than ever for us lawyers to keep good relationships with our DHS counterparts. While some government attorneys are glad to be “unleashed” and to step-up deportation efforts, many others are uncomfortable with the Administration’s scorched-Earth strategy. These DHS attorneys (and I suspect they are the majority) take seriously their obligation to do justice; not simply to remove everyone that ICE can get their hands on.

While the environment has become more difficult, I plan to continue my Old School approach. It works for me, it has worked for my clients, and I think it is particularly crucial in the current atmosphere. We lawyers–the immigration bar and DHS–should continue to lead by example, and continue to maintain the high ethical standards that our profession sets for us. In this way, we can help serve as a counter-balance to our country’s leaders, whose divisive, ends-justify-the-means approach has no use for the basic principles of morality or comity that have long served our profession and our democracy.”

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Read Jason’s complete blog at the link.

This is terrific advice for lawyers and judges, particularly those just starting out.

Fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect and teamwork are the things I have tried to promote throughout my career. I found all of them at the Arlington Immigration Court. “No way” I would have lasted 13 years on the trial bench  without lots of help and cooperation from the whole “court team.”

PWS

06-14-17

 

SESSIONS SUMMARY: Irritated, Indignant, Not Very Informative! — Selective Memory On Display!

Of the many summaries floating around the internet, I found this one from “Will Drabold at Mic” to be the most useful:

Navigating Trump’s America — Special Jeff Sessions Edition — Tuesday, June 13, 2017
YOUR DAILY READ ON HOW THE
COUNTRY IS CHANGING UNDER DONALD TRUMP.
By Will Drabold at Mic.

 

Today’s question: Will Jeff Sessions’ testimony come to haunt him? Or did he hold up well under the spotlight? Email us at trumpsamerica@mic.com and join us for $1 a month to discuss this in our Facebook group.

 

Please respond to this email with your thoughts. You can read this in your browser here. And if someone forwarded this to you, do the right thing: Subscribe here.

 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions was defensive during his hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Sessions was adamant he — and the Trump campaign — had zero collusion with Russia. This special edition of Navigating Trump’s America recaps Sessions’ hearing and what comes next.

Read a blow-by-blow of the hearing here.

 

6 takeaways from Jeff Sessions’ Senate testimony

1. The attorney general gave conflicting answers about his reported meetings with the Russian ambassador.

 

The attorney general said he “did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials” at an event for the president’s first major speech on foreign policy last year at a Washington, D.C., hotel. During questioning, Sessions’ tone grew shiftier.

 

Further, Sessions said he could not “recall” any meetings with Russian officials that have not been disclosed, nor did he have memory of conversations with other people tied to Russia.

 

This matters because Sessions, who was under oath, could later be grilled on this waffling by investigators running the Russia inquiry. Sessions seemingly acknowledged the need to give himself an out from that line of questioning, saying he cannot guarantee his recollection of events is correct.

 

2. Sessions said James Comey was fired because of how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

 

Sessions said Comey’s decision to publicly recommend not seeking charges in the email investigation was a “breathtaking usurpation of the responsibility of the attorney general.”

 

That doubled down on what Sessions put in his signed letter, but it contradicted Trump’s comment after Comey’s firing that the Russia investigation factored into the firing. Sessions said Tuesday that Trump’s words speak for themselves and he could not discuss more than the letter.

 

The attorney general shared his belief that it did not violate his recusal from the Russia investigation to be involved in firing Comey, something Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said did not “pass the smell test.” The attorney general was adamant it was his job, despite the recusal, to choose the leadership of the FBI.

 

3. The attorney general emphatically denied he had any involvement in allegations related to Russia.

 

Perhaps Sessions’ most sweeping statement came during his opening, when he said, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

 

The attorney general added that he did not recall anyone trying to influence him in his role with the Trump campaign.

 

4. The attorney general would not comment on whether he talked to Trump about firing Comey and whether the Russia investigation was part of the conversation about the firing.

 

“I am not stonewalling,” Sessions said in response to an accusation he was covering up conversations with the president.

 

Sessions repeatedly cited Justice Department regulations that he said bar him from discussing conversations he had with Trump. “I’m protecting the president’s constitutional right,” he said, by not discussing private conversations with Trump. “I think your silence speaks volumes,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

 

5. Sessions said he effectively recused himself from the Russia investigation the day after he was confirmed by the Senate.

 

Sessions said he has never had a briefing about the role of Russian interference in the U.S. election. The attorney general added that his recusal was made because of department regulations, not because he felt he could be a subject of the investigation.

 

“I recused myself that day,” Sessions said of the day after he was confirmed. “I never received any information about the campaign.”

 

6. The tone of the attorney general’s testimony was noticeably defensive.

 

“This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me,” Sessions said, raising his voice as he defended himself. Sessions called it an “appalling and detestable lie” to suggest he colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

 

The attorney general criticized anyone suggesting he has ties to Russia, saying there is no evidence he or fellow Trump supporters colluded with Russia.

 

A note on Sessions’ dodges:

 

Throughout the hearing, Sessions repeatedly dodged questions by claiming the president’s right to executive privilege. There’s just one problem: The president never invoked executive privilege, and the legal basis for Sessions’ dodges is questionable.

 

Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) asked Sessions to work with the White House to identify which questions the attorney general refused to answer on Tuesday could be addressed later on, in writing.

 

So where does the Russia investigation stand now?

 

Sessions had little to say about the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election given his recusal from the inquiry. But there was news outside the hearing about the investigation.

 

After reports surfaced that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the president did not answer questions from reporters on Tuesday about whether he was considering firing Mueller. Republican senators said that decision is not within Trump’s jurisdiction. Watch this space.

 

Senators were not eager to speak with reporters after the hearing. Mic could only connect with Sen. Marco Rubio, who said Sessions was forthcoming and answered questions. Neither Burr nor Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) offered public comment, as they did following Comey’s testimony. Journalists were told all other senators, and Sessions, had left the building within 30 minutes of the hearing wrapping.

 

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To me, there sure seems to be something fishy about the whole Comey firing. Why would the “new bosses” fire someone for something that happened well in the past and during a time that they were not even in charge of the DOJ? Why would they do it without waiting for the pending Inspector General report? Why wouldn’t they at least have given Comey, a well-respected figure in law enforcement, a chance to explain his side of the story? Why would they fabricate stories about “poor morale” in the FBI which certainly don’t seem to be borne out? It appears that while not universally beloved (who is, except for our “Supreme Leader?”) Comey generally was well-respected and trusted by the line agents. And, most important, why wouldn’t they carefully have considered whether or not Comey’s firing would impede the FBI’s most important pending investigation: into Russian interference with our elections?

That the Russians actively attempted to compromise our election process, the cornerstone of our democracy, is undisputed! Yet nobody, and I mean nobody, in the Trump Administration seems at all concerned about the national security aspect of it. And, notwithstanding the cosmetically bipartisan efforts, it’s clear that the GOP in Congress just wants the whole topic to go away. They plainly couldn’t care less about what Russia does to screw with our system unless they start losing some elections. While Trump gins up bogus national security concerns about a few Muslim countries that don’t send us very many migrants anyway, the real national security threat to America, Trump’s policies and his lackadaisical/permissive attitudes toward Russia are swept under the rug.

As for the “Mueller rumors,” just “send in the clowns.” Oh, no need, “they’re already here.”🤡

PWS

06-14-17

“USA” — UNITED SYCOPHANTS OF AMERICA — Cabinet Joins Clown Brigade 🤡 — Hey Dudes, You Are Supposed To Be Loyal To The People (Who Pay Your Salaries) & The US Constitution, Not The Supreme Leader!

Here’s a link to CNN video through HuffPost.

WARNING: Don’t watch this on a queasy stomach!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-first-cabinet-meeting_us_593f0820e4b0b13f2c6d6530?zhu

PWS

06-13-17

Personalized Immigration History, Anyone? Four Of Us “Old Timers” — Hon. Gus Villageliu, Hon. M. Christopher Grant, Hon. Jeffrey Chase, & I — Have Put Together Some Of Our Recollections Of The Earlier Days Of The Immigration Court Under The “Comments” To My Recent “York Speech!”

Click this link, and go to the “Comments” tab at the bottom. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-WJ

Additional thoughts and comments welcome!

PWS

06-11-17

POLITICS/SATIRE: Latest New Yorker Cover Says It All!🤡 — But, Over In The “Parallel Universe” Of Trump Backers & The GOP, Everything Is A-OK!

“Comic Riffs
New Yorker cover renders Trump as a ‘Modern’ clown of his own making
By Michael Cavna June 9

The New Yorker
WERE FILM FANS to pick a Charlie Chaplin picture that most summons thoughts of President Trump, some might choose “The Gold Rush” or “The Great Dictator,” if not a short titled “The Property Man,” “His New Job” or “Gentlemen of Nerve.”

For his latest topical New Yorker cover, though, Barry Blitt goes with man vs. political machinations in a sly spoof of Chaplin’s gear-grinding clowning in “Modern Times.”

GIF
by Barry Blitt / The New Yorker 2017
“Both Chaplin and Trump are iconic clowns,” Blitt says. “In the classic ‘Modern Times,’ the iconic Little Trump character struggles to survive in a world fraught with calamities of his own making at every turn. Alas, his big red clown tie getting caught repeatedly in the works.” Continue reading POLITICS/SATIRE: Latest New Yorker Cover Says It All!🤡 — But, Over In The “Parallel Universe” Of Trump Backers & The GOP, Everything Is A-OK!

🤡 Just When You Thought Ringling Bros Was Dead — Listen To Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Describe The “Clown-In-Chief’s” 🤡 Rose Garden Reality Show — Trump Is Debasing & Trivializing The High Office To Which He Was Elected!

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/06/09/swalwell-trump-clownish-performance-lead-sciutto-intv.cnn Continue reading 🤡 Just When You Thought Ringling Bros Was Dead — Listen To Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Describe The “Clown-In-Chief’s” 🤡 Rose Garden Reality Show — Trump Is Debasing & Trivializing The High Office To Which He Was Elected!

AND IT’S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER NEXT WEEK FOR EMBATTLED AG — Sessions To Appear Before Senate Intelligence Comm On Tuesday! — Topic: RUSSIA!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/10/politics/sessions-senate-testimony/index.html

CNN reports:

“(CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced he will appear before the Senate intelligence committee rather than House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Tuesday, saying Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will testify on the latter panels in his place.

In a letter Saturday to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Sessions said the change in venue would be more appropriate for expected questions on the issues raised by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the intelligence committee Thursday.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information,” Sessions explained.
It is unclear whether the upcoming intelligence committee hearing will be open or closed.”
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You can get some video reports at the link:
Golly gee, sure hope Ol’ Jeff hasn’t forgotten what the Russian Ambassador looks like (again). Caution: If he denies the meeting under oath, and it can later be proved, Gonzo could follow in the footsteps of the his GOP antecedent, the notorious John Mitchell as a “law and order” AG who eventually became a guest of the Bureau of Prisons. But, Gonzo does love his prisons, so maybe that’s a good place for him. He’ll probably run into lots of “criminal” border crossers in minimum security. Perhaps, they will take pity on him and show him the ropes. He might want to brush up on his Spanish.
PWS
06-10-17

Chris Cillizza In WashPost: Gonzo’s Bad Week! AG Appears Both Out Of Favor & Under Investigation — What More Could You Want From The USG’s Top Lawyer?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/10/politics/jeff-sessions-worst-week/index.html

“Washington (CNN)When stories about you offering to resign due to increasingly strained relations with your boss are the high point of your week, you know it’s not been a good seven days.

That’s how it went for Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week.
Things started off poorly when a series of pieces detailed his ongoing issues with President Donald Trump. This, from CNN’s Sara Murray and Stephen Collinson, paints an ugly picture for Sessions:
“Sessions and the President have had a series of heated exchanges in recent weeks, prompted by the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russia interference in the election and alleged collusion by Trump aides, a source close to Sessions told CNN on Tuesday.”
“At one point, Sessions made clear he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him.”
Comey: AG may have met ambassador a third time

Comey: AG may have met ambassador a third time 01:34
Trump doesn’t like to ever apologize, retreat or concede. On anything. Sessions did just that, in Trump’s eyes, when he recused himself from the federal Russia probe after it was revealed he had not disclosed two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign. Trump didn’t like the decision at the time and has come to view it as the root of everything that led to the appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.”

***********************************

Read Cillizza’s full story at the link.

Regardless of whether he gets indicted, Gonzo Apocalypto’s sleaze factor is high. And his “gonzo” policies on immigration, crime, civil rights, and human rights are bad for American justice. It was also clear from Comey’s testimony that he didn’t view Sessions as a person of integrity, nor did he trust him as far as he could throw him.

Liz was right!

PWS

06-10-17

Still Not Sure We Need U.S. Immigration Court Reform? Read This Explosive New OIG Report — While “Rome Was Burning” In The Immigration Courts, EOIR Senior Exec Was Busy Fiddling Around Hiring Pals, Soliciting Sexual Favors, Taking Kickbacks On Contracts, Lying To Investigators, & Retaliating Against Honest Employees!

INVESTIGATIVE SUMMARY

Findings Concerning Improper Hiring Practices, Inappropriate Interactions with Subordinates and a Contractor, and False Statements by a Senior Executive with the
Executive Office for Immigration Review

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated an investigation of a senior executive with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) based on information it received from DOJ that the official engaged in inappropriate hiring practices, used non‐public information to benefit friends, solicited and accepted gifts from subordinates, maintained inappropriate relationships with subordinates, and participated in an inappropriate quid pro quo scheme with a contract company.

The OIG found that the executive engaged in improper hiring practices when, on seven separate occasions, the executive disregarded merit system principles to hire close friends and associates as DOJ employees or DOJ contract personnel over applicants with superior qualifications for the positions. The OIG also found that the executive initiated and approved the promotion of a friend before the individual was eligible for promotion, nominated a friend for a monetary award without sufficient justification, and promoted a friend who lacked qualifications for the position. The OIG further found that the executive disclosed to friends and acquaintances non‐public information about job opportunities on a pending DOJ contract, and advocated for increasing contractor salaries in support of friends. The OIG found that this conduct violated federal statutes, federal regulations, and DOJ policy.

In addition, the OIG found that the executive maintained an inappropriate personal relationship with a subordinate, and solicited and accepted gifts and donations from subordinates, in violation of federal statutes and regulations, and DOJ policy. The OIG investigation further concluded that the executive engaged in an inappropriate scheme with a DOJ contractor in which the executive sought employment and training from the contractor for personal friends in exchange for the executive actively participating in the creation and awarding of a purchase agreement of substantial monetary value to the contractor, in violation of federal statutes and regulations.

Lastly, the OIG found that the executive lacked candor and provided false statements to the OIG in relation to the executive’s conduct in the above‐described matters, in violation of federal statute and regulation. Prosecution of the executive was declined.

The OIG has completed its investigation and provided this report to EOIR for appropriate action. The OIG also referred to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel its findings that the executive retaliated against employees who refused to hire the executive’s friends.

Posted to oig.justice.gov on June 6, 2017

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The “experiment” with trying to run a major court system as an agency of the USDOJ is over. It has failed! Is Jeff Sessions going to straighten this mess out? No way! In addition to being less than candid under oath during his Senate Confirmation hearing (or perjuring himself in the view of many), the Comey testimony certainly made it appear that Sessions either was under active investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller or soon would be under such investigation.

And, it’s by no means just Sessions. Every Attorney General since Janet Reno has contributed significantly to the downward spiral in the U.S. Immigration Courts (including the BIA). Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who helped push Immigration Court backlogs to incredible new heights with poor hiring practices and politically motivated enforcement priorities, also came out of the Comey hearing looking like someone who put political loyalty before integrity. For the record, she has denied Comey’s charges. But, then so have Trump & Sessions. Not very good company, I’m afraid. And, don’t forget that the whole mess with the announcement on the Hillary Clinton investigation started because Lynch had the incredibly poor judgement to meet with Bill Clinton during the heat of his wife’s Presidential campaign.

This OIG Report comes on the heels of a GAO Report that pointed out a number of chronic management problems in EOIR, including the ridiculous 2-year hiring cycle for U.S. Immigration Judges. The GAO also discussed options for restructuring the Immigration courts as an independent agency, although the report did not make a specific recommendation on that subject. Here’s a link to my blog on the GAO report: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Uh

 

PWS

06-10-17