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Judge Rips DOJ Lawyers for “Series of Misrepresentations,” Orders Ethics Training

In one of the most recent examples of gross misconduct on the part of U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, noteworthy for the fact that it was actually punished, a Texas federal judge blasted DOJ lawyers who had deliberately misled him. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled that the lawyers had lied regarding the implementation of President Obama’s executive order directed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The case involved a consolidated lawsuit challenging that order filed by 26 state Attorneys General.

Hanen wrote in his scathing May 19, 2016 decision that the “unseemly and unprofessional conduct of these lawyers concealed the fact that Obama’s order was already being implemented when they already had knowledge that this was not the case.”

“Opposing counsel and this Court were assured that no action would be taken implementing the 2014 DHS Directive until February 18, ... despite the fact that in actuality the DHS had already granted or renewed over 100,000 modified DACA applications using the 2014 DHS Directive.”

What bothered Judge Hanen the most was that the “Justice Department lawyers knew the true facts and misrepresented those facts to the ... 26 Plaintiff States, their lawyers and this Court on multiple occasions.” He flatly rejected the DOJ’s argument that “the reason its lawyers were not candid with the Court was that they either ‘lost focus on the fact’ or that somehow ‘the fact receded in memory or awareness.’”

Sadly, the judge added, “there seems to be a lack of knowledge about or adherence to the duties of professional responsibility in the halls of the Justice Department.... The Justice Department purports to represent all Americans – not just those who are in favor of whatever actions the Department is seeking to prosecute or defend. The end result never justifies misconduct.”

As a final sanction, Hanen barred DOJ attorneys from appearing in any state or federal court in the 26 states that had challenged DACA until they complete a legal ethics course, and revoked the appearance rights of out-of-state Department of Justice lawyers who had engaged in the misconduct. The lawyers were not identified by the district court. The DOJ attorneys have appealed Judge Hanen’s order, and the underlying claims in the case concerning DACA remain pending. See: Texas v. United States, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Tex.), Case No. 14-cv-00254; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79546.

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Related legal case

Texas v. United States