United States District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a remarkable opinion yesterday that found that Justice Department lawyers not only lied to him and opposing counsel but “it is hard to imagine a more serious, more calculated plan of unethical conduct.” What is even more remarkable however is that, after finding such calculated and unethical conduct, Hanen ordered the lawyers to simply take ethics classes rather than refer them to the bar for suspension or disbarment. Many attorneys object that government lawyers routinely escape serious punishment for false or misleading statements. In this case, the judge found that the Justice Department misled him and opposing counsel in a case by Texas and 25 other states that sought to block President Barack Obama’s controversial immigration programs. Hansen blocked the program. Notably, the Justice Department is even opposing ethical classes as a sanction.
The government misled the court on when the government would begin implementing one of the programs. The Justice Department team assured the court the government would not start implementing an expansion of a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals until February 18, 2015. The court and opposing counsel relied on that date even though the government implemented a part of the program before February and granted over 100,000 applications. Hansen found that the “Justice Department lawyers knew the true facts and misrepresented those facts.”
Apparently, lawyers, somewhere in the halls of the Justice Department whose identities are unknown to this Court, decided unilaterally that the conduct of the DHS in granting three-year DACA renewals . . . was immaterial and irrelevant to this lawsuit and that the DOJ could therefore just ignore it. Then, for whatever reason, the Justice Department trial lawyers appearing in this Court chose not to tell the truth about this DHS activity. The first decision was certainly unsupportable, but the subsequent decision to hide it from the Court was unethical.
In an effort to convey how unethical the Justice Department acted in the case, Hanen even excerpted a portion of the film “Miracle on 34th Street” when a young Tommy Mara Jr. says “Gosh, everybody knows you shouldn’t tell a lie, especially in court.” Judge Hanen noted “There are certain attorneys in the Justice Department who apparently have not received that message.”
Here is the opinion: Immigration Decision.