New York Times
By Julia Preston
May 31, 2016
The Obama administration on Tuesday escalated a feud with the federal judge hearing a challenge to the president’s executive actions on immigration, accusing the judge of overstepping his authority by imposing sanctions on government lawyers for what he said were ethics violations.
In court papers, the Justice Department responded to an order on May 19 by Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Tex., in which he ordered government lawyers practicing in the 26 states involved in the case to take ethics courses. He also barred some from appearing in his court.
In the scathing ruling, Judge Hanen ordered the department to provide the names of tens of thousands of immigrants who were granted protection from deportation for three years under the president’s programs, before the judge imposed an injunction in February 2015.
The Justice Department disputed the judge’s claim that its lawyers had intentionally lied to him and called his punishments grossly disproportionate, even if they had committed the missteps. The department said the measures ordered by the judge would cost the government as much as $8 million over five years and force the administration to reveal the identities of innocent immigrants who played no role in the dispute.
“The department emphatically disagrees with the sanctions orders,” said a spokesman for the agency, Patrick Rodenbush. The department has asked Judge Hanen for an emergency stay of his order — which he is unlikely to grant — and said it would appeal his order.
The dispute is a side issue in the lawsuit brought by Texas and 25 other states against the programs President Obama announced in November 2014 that would give deportation protection and work permits to more than four million immigrants in the country illegally. Judge Hanen’s injunction was upheld by an appeals court, and the case is before the Supreme Court.
In the latest episode, the administration is making the same argument against the judge that he made against Mr. Obama, saying that Judge Hanen overreached the bounds of his authority and is arbitrarily imposing big costs on government budgets.
At issue is when government lawyers told Judge Hanen that more than 100,000 deportation deferrals with a newly expanded term of three years had been granted under a separate program for young undocumented immigrants who came here as children. Government lawyers have acknowledged that they at first overlooked the fact that those three-year deferrals were covered by the lawsuit.
Administration officials said they complied with an earlier order by Judge Hanen to recall about 2,500 three-year deferrals issued after his injunction, replacing them with deferrals with the original two-year terms.
But the fiery language from both sides shows the intense differences in the case. In his original order, punctuated with quotations from famous movies about lawyers, Judge Hanen accused the Justice Department’s lawyers of “unseemly and unprofessional conduct.”
In a statement filed in court, Leon Rodríguez, the director of the immigration agency in charge of the president’s programs, said the judge’s demand for a list of about 50,000 immigrants with three-year deferrals living in the 26 states would be an “unprecedented breach” of the confidentiality of immigration applications.
“There is so much bad blood” between the judge and the lawyers, said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who is an expert on judicial ethics and is not involved in the immigration case.
He said the judge’s order, coming before the Supreme Court’s decision, was “both precipitous and excessive,” because Judge Hanen did not explain why he extended his ethics schooling to lawyers who had no part in the case.
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