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“Laughably Insane,” “Bizarre,” and “Judicial Misconduct” – Legal Voices and Observers Blast Judge Hanen’s Order

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Last week, Texas Judge Andrew Hanen issued an outrageous and highly unusual order that alleged misconduct by the U.S. Department of Justice and demanded reporting of Dreamers’ personal information to the court and subsequently the states.

Said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund: “Chief Justice Roberts and the rest of the Court should take note: Judge Hanen’s latest ruling is further evidence of his anti-immigrant animus and underscores the larger politicization and motivations behind the U.S. v Texas immigration case.”

A range of legal voices and other observers are making similar assessments.  Below, we present a sampling of reactions:

Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress Justicedeconstructed Judge Hanen’s “strange order,” referring to Hanen’s order (in a tweet) as, “the single worst act of judicial misconduct I have ever encountered,” and writing in his detailed analysis that, “An open question is whether the Justice Department will file a motion to remove Hanen from the case. Federal law states that “[a]ny justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” and appeals courts have, on rare occasions, cited this provision to remove judges from cases where their actions create an ‘appearance of partiality.’ Ordinarily, attorneys do not file such motions, as such motions are not usually granted and they anger the judge. In this case, however, it does not appear that the Justice Department has anything to lose.”

George Washington University Law School professor Orin Kerrwriting for the Washington Post’s legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, assessed, “In a very odd order, Judge Andrew Hanen, the Texas district judge assigned the DAPA immigration case now before the Supreme Court, has ordered the creation of a new continuing legal education program just for Justice Department lawyers based in Washington, D.C. Judge Hanen believes that DOJ lawyers lied to him in the course of the DAPA litigation. His remedy for the ethical breach is rather curious. As part of the remedy, for example, he orders a five-year program of three-hour-per-year live ethics training for all Justice Department lawyers based in D.C. who appear or seek to appear in any court about any matter inside any of the 26 states that joined the DAPA litigation … Surprisingly, Hanen does not discuss whether he has the legal authority to impose this remedy. Most of the people who have to comply with this order are lawyers who will never enter Hanen’s jurisdiction and have nothing to do with the DAPA case. Hanen is even trying to regulate practices in state court in other states. If a DOJ lawyer plans to appear in in state court in Maine in 2021, Hanen in Brownsville, Tex., believes he has the power now to regulate that. Given Hanen’s focus in his order with making sure government officials ‘play by the rulebook,’ I’m interested to know what rulebook governs Hanen’s remedy and whether he is playing by it.”

Anil Kalhan, a law professor who wrote the definitive article on deferred actionand the legal basis for DAPA for UCLA Law Reviewtweeted, “Hanen’s bizarre mass doxing order, for which he gives no rationale, raises Qs re: his actual motivations,” and noted, “Shorter Hanen: I’m worried this might be my last chance to level a political attack on Obama’s #immigration policies”

Immigration attorney David Leopoldquoted in the San Antonio Express-News, “Texas and the 25 states who sued to block the executive actions could get the list upon ‘showing of good cause’ — for what purpose? To go out and harass people … Those immigrants had to give back their three-year permits months ago, so practically, Hanen’s order may not have much effect but will go a long way toward instilling fear in immigrants across the country.”

Above the Law’sJoe Patrice noted of Hanen and his ruling, “This is a laughably insane overreach based on his beef with a narrow, if important to him, misstatement by a few lawyers in one case.”

NBC News quoted Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, saying, “We urge the Department of Justice to do what is necessary to protect the identities and privacy of Dreamers, whose lives could be severely impacted by this order.” Hincapié also said on the call, “In my 20 years of practicing law, I have frankly never seen anything quite like this  – Judge Hanen’s order is nothing other than an attempt to terrorize our immigrant communities disguised in legal robes. Judge Hanen has clearly shown that he is not an impartial judge in this case, as is required under the ethical code, and I hope that the Supreme Court Justices will come down with a strong and favorable opinion that ensures this case never goes back to his court. To those with DACA and the entire immigrant community, we stand with you and we will continue to fight in Congress and the courtroom to ensure that this and any other attempt to inflict fear in our community never prevails.”

A new editorial in La Opinión, the nation’s largest Spanish language newspaper, titled “The Excesses of Judge Hanen,” notes, “It is clear that Hanen, a favorite among anti-immigrant conservatives, wants to continue being the protagonist of a case that is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. To do so, he assigned himself the role of ethics guardian overseeing government lawyers and gatekeeper of private information. He illustrates this in a document in which he cites dialogue from the films ‘Bridge of Spies’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ to support his position. It is normal to quote legal precedents to back an argument in court but not fictional dialogue taken from Hollywood films. This is an example of a very inappropriate and irregular court order, which deserves to be appealed.”

Kerry Eleveld, writing at Daily Kos, captured several of the other egregious and bizarre components of Hanen’s order, including: “(1) Hanen quoted heavily from Hollywood movies in it (some judges are more prone to quoting from precedential cases); 2) He trafficked in conspiracy theories, suggesting some kind of collusion among attorneys ‘somewhere in the halls of the Justice Department whose identities are unknown to this Court.’ (Too bad he didn’t order the release of their names too); 3) He ordered the Justice Department attorneys in Washington working on the case (potentially hundreds) to attend ethics courses every year (yeah, that’s gonna happen). Oh, and let’s not forget Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He also ordered the Attorney General herself to ‘report to this Court in sixty (60) days with a comprehensive plan to prevent’ the alleged misconduct that Hanen believes happened in his courtroom ‘from ever occurring again.’ Surely Lynch is on Orbitz at this very moment.”