Republicans suddenly love nationwide injunctions when used to stop Democratic policies – Conservative judges halt Biden environmental and COVID relief efforts
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Republicans under the Trump administration decried the judiciary’s use of nationwide injunctions against Trump policies – from the Muslim ban to the “public charge” rule to HUD Fair Housing Act changes.
- AG Jeff Sessions directed DOJ attorneys “to present strong and consistent arguments in court against the issuance of nationwide injunctions and to reaffirm the existing constitutional and practical limitations on the authority of judges.”
- Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch wrote an opinion (PDF) criticizing nationwide injunctions issued by district courts: “The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw — they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case.”
- Congressional Republicans sought to create legislation to limit or outright prevent federal judges from issuing nationwide injunctions on executive office actions. “I believe we have a handful of judges who are operating effectively as part of the resistance movement, trying to put themselves in the way of Trump policies they happen to disagree with,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in Feb. 2020. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) introduced the “Nationwide Injunction Abuse Prevention Act” to “prevent lawful policy changes from being blocked based on the activist agendas of individual, unaccountable district court judges.”
- Trump himself denounced the legal tool during a speech before the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago on Oct. 28, 2019. “These nationwide injunctions undermine our entire immigration system and other systems. It’s not the job of judges to impose their own political views. Their job is to apply the letter of the law as per our great Constitution. That is why I have already had appointed and approved 158 brand-new federal judges and court of appeals judges who are committed to upholding the laws and the Constitution as written.”
However, now that a Democrat is creating executive policy, it should be no surprise the Republicans suddenly love nationwide injunctions. Since Biden took office GOP state attorneys have sought and received numerous nationwide injunctions against his policies, starting on Jan. 26 when Texas District Judge Drew Tipton – a Trump appointee – blocked Biden’s 100-day moratorium on deportations at AG Ken Paxton’s request.
The following are the most recent nationwide injunctions:
Louisiana District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee, issued a nationwide injunction blocking the Interior Department from enforcing its pause on new oil and gas leases on public lands. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sued the administration in March in conjunction with 12 other states, all led by Republican AGs. Doughty agreed with their argument that the moratorium could damage the economy, writing that “local government funding, jobs for plaintiff state workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s coastline are at stake” (PDF).
- Further reading: “Senators press Interior Secretary Haaland on oil lease pause,” AP
Wisconsin District Judge William Griesbach, appointed by George W. Bush, stopped the implementation of the Department of Agriculture’s minority farmer debt relief program. 12 white farmers from nine states filed suit under the premise that it is unconstitutional to limit relief based on race. The administration, on the hand, argues the program seeks to remedy long-existing racial disparities and is not perpetuating racial discrimination.
In his decision approving the order [PDF], Griesbach said the plaintiffs in the case “will suffer irreparable harm” if the program were to move forward, saying the USDA has not proven that they have “a compelling interest in remedying the effects of past and present discrimination” and that the loan forgiveness program is “narrowly tailored” to fit the allowed standard for race-based programs.