The Court does not have the power to disbar the counsel in this case, but it does have the power to revoke the pro hac vice status of out-of-state lawyers who act unethically in court.”
During my years of legal practice, if I received anything close to that official rebuke from a federal judge, the only question in my mind would’ve been whether to bother stopping by the managing partner’s office to receive a formal termination notice before packing up my belongings.
But that’s exactly the rebuke that federal Judge Andrew Hanen just issued against Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. The occasion for this extraordinary and frightening order was the Administration’s bald misconduct in litigating the immigration executive order case now before the U.S. Supreme Court:
The United States Department of Justice (”DOJ” or “Justice Department”) has now admitted making statements that clearly did not match the facts. It has admitted that the lawyers who made these statements had knowledge of the truth when they made these misstatements…
To say that the government acted contrary to its multiple assurances to this Court is, at best, an understatement. The Government knowingly acted contrary to its representations to this Court on over 100,000 occasions. This Court finds that the misrepresentations detailed above: (1) were false; (2) were made in bad faith; and (3) misled both the Court and the Plaintiff States. The misconduct in this case was intentional, serious and material. In fact, it is hard to imagine a more serious, more calculated plan of unethical conduct. There were over 100,000 instances of conduct contrary to counsel’s representations; such a sizable omission cannot be classified as immaterial.”
Lest anyone attempt to dismiss this outrage as limited to a few attorneys, Judge Hanen’s order extended to the DOJ itself:
[W]hatever it is that the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility has been doing, it has not been effective. The Office of Professional Responsibility purports to have as its mission, according to the Department of Justice’s website, the duty to ensure that Department of Justice attorneys ‘perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards expected of the Nation’s principal law enforcement agency.’”
Among other remedies, Judge Hanen ruled that any DOJ lawyer based in Washington, D.C. who “appears or seeks to appear” in any state or federal court among those 26 states involved in the immigration case attend remedial ethics courses. Additionally, current Attorney General Loretta Lynch was specifically ordered to come up with a program to prevent future misconduct of this sort.
Anyone still curious regarding the origins of the political and social turmoil this nation is suffering after two terms under Obama, look no further. When a president and his administration cannot even be trusted to tell the truth in pleadings and statements to a federal court, we approach a disintegration of the rule of law. The potential repercussions, both near-term and long-term, are terrifying to contemplate.