Why a Texas Judge and the Justice Department are Feuding Over DACA Permits

“It’s gotten very chippy.”

By Laura RiceJune 6, 2016 3:10 pm| ,

We’re now in the home stretch of the Supreme Court’s current term, and of the four or five most highly watched cases yet to be decided – three of them are tied directly to Texas.

There’s the Fisher case: does the consideration of race in admissions at UT violate the equal protection clause?

There’s the Whole Woman’s Health case: do Texas abortion laws cause a constitutionally impermissible undue burden?

And then there’s United States v. Texas: whether the Obama administration had the authority to order deferred deportation of undocumented immigrants, and whether that’s consistent with the constitution.

None of those Texas cases are being decided today, but a subplot on the deferred deportation case is playing out in a federal courthouse in Brownsville. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen has made an order that would send thousands of U.S. Department of Justice lawyers back to school.

Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky says that Hanen has ordered that Justice Department lawyers in the 26 states suing the federal government to undergo a three-hour ethics training course.

“(Hannen) feels like the Justice Department lied to him, and he now feels like all of their lawyers who would practice before any of these courts would need to be retrained,” Zapotosky says.

The Justice Department pushed back on Friday, asking a federal appeals court to nullify Hanen’s orders. The feud at the heart of the matter is whether the Justice Department intentionally misled Hanen about issuing benefits under the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. According to Hanen, federal attorneys indicated that no action was being taken, but they were issuing benefits. The Justice Department says it’s just a matter of crossed wires.

“They also say even if they did lie, that the impact was not serious enough or should not warrant these really harsh sanctions, that it would be way over-burdensome to make all of their lawyers who want to practice in these 26 states get more ethics training,” Zapotosky says.

Some 3,000 lawyers would have to undergo the training with an estimated cost of $1.5 million.

It’s gotten very chippy,” Zapotosky says. “The judge’s order quoted from movies sort of multiple times, just beat the Justice Department up for lying. The Justice Department, in its response, was a lot more blunt than you would typically see them be, because I think that it’s gotten a little bit personal.”

Prepared for web by Alexandra Hart.