Tag Archives: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Five Ninth Circuit Judges

“We are all acutely aware of the enormous controversy and chaos that attended the issuance of the Executive Order. People contested the extent of the national security interests at stake, and they debated the value that the Executive Order added to our security against the real suffering of potential emigres. As tempting as it is to use the judicial power to balance those competing interests as we see fit, we cannot let our personal inclinations get ahead of important, overarching principles about who gets to make decisions in our democracy.

For better or worse, every four years we hold a contested presidential election. We have all found ourselves disappointed with the election results in one election cycle or another. But it is the best of American traditions that we also understand and respect the consequences of our elections. Even when we disagree with the judgment of the political branches — and perhaps especially when we disagree — we have to trust that the wisdom of the nation as a whole will prevail in the end.”

—-Five judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  (Judges Jay Bybee,  joined by Judges Alex Kozinski, Consuelo María Callahan, Carlos Bea, and Sandra Segal Ikuta, attacked what Bybee called the “fundamental errors” in the February decision of a three-judge panel upholding the temporary restraining order that blocked President Donald Trump’s first executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The opinion denounced the panel’s ruling as a “clear misstatement of law,” and stated that the five, constituting a larger number of judges than the three judge panel whose contrary holding was described as a “unanimous” 9th Circuit decision, had an”obligation to correct” it for the record.

“We are judges, not Platonic Guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decisions to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress,” the five judges stated.

Currently, the President’s revised order is held up by an even more widely criticized temporary restraining order issued by  U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson. As well as following many of the same lines of activist judicial reasoning the five judges criticized in their dissent, Judge Watson’s opinion heavily relies  on the campaign rhetoric of President Trump and statements by  chief aide Stephen Miller in TV interviews. This means, as several critical legal experts including Alan Dershowitz  have pointed out, that the exact same order, if issued by Barack Obama, would not have been blocked, and would have been found Constitutional.

Now that’s a double standard!

In criticizing their colleagues, the five judges said that the panel “brushed aside” the clearly controlling case law of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972) and ignored entirely the rulings in Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128 (2015) and Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977).  The Supreme Court in Mandel recognized that First Amendment rights were implicated by an executive action but decided…

“when the executive has exercised its authority to exclude aliens on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment 11 interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.”

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TV Critic Neil Genzlinger’s Absurd Quote, Samantha Bee, And The 9th Circuit’s Travel Halt Decision]

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First, a quote…

“There is a lot of bravado in this series about how comics are society’s truth-tellers. As Keegan-Michael Key puts it: “The comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to show the world that: ‘Do you see that this is happening? We didn’t make this up.’”Of course, we’ve just been through a period in which comedians of all sorts joked about one possible outcome of the American presidential election as if it could never actually come to be, and it came to be anyway. Now, the comics holding that curtain may be realizing that, sometimes, the world isn’t listening or doesn’t care.”

—New York Times TV reviewer Neil Genzlinger, in his conclusion to the review of CNN’s documentary on the history of television comedy.

Ugh.

The reason, Neil, that the world “isn’t listening or doesn’t care” is that with very, very rare exceptions, the political pronouncements of comedians are simple-minded, ignorant, juvenile or worse. Unfortunately, comics are increasingly laboring under the delusion that their junior college degrees, narrow life experiences and success at making drunks cackle imbues them with some genuine authority to pass judgments on complex policy issues. This is manifestly untrue. The clowns are on TV because they are, or were, allegedly funny, not because they have anything more sophisticated to offer regarding foreign policy or tax reform than the average guy on a barstool.

I have now seen an ad for Samantha Bee’s comedy show “Full Frontal” approximately a million times, or so it seems. If she is really this  ignorant, her show should be banned by the NEA. All of her featured riff is about how horrible the President is—well, at least that’s original—and it ends with her statement, complete with “any idiot should know this” facial mugging, that “lawyers call” Trump’s temporary immigration halt from seven nations “unconstitutional.”  Continue reading

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About the “So-Called” Judge’s TRO

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Ethics Alarms had a revealing comment on the post about the grandstanding and unethical ex-acting-Attorney General’s  breach of her duty to represent her client regarding the President’s Middle East immigration Executive Order. Following Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order (or TRO), the reader said, in essence, ‘See? She was right! The order was illegal, just like she said it was!’ The comment was idiotic on its face on many levels, yet it was also a fair summation of how partisan citizens have viewed the controversy. The various TROs validate the criticism of the Executive Order in their minds. They don’t, however. Judge Robart’s order particularly doesn’t. In fact, it is infuriatingly vague.

Now, a TRO doesn’t necessarily have to explain in detail what is wrong with a law, regulation or order. The purpose of this judicial act is to stall a measure that has the potential of causing a lot of disruption, unhappiness or expense from going into effect until there can be a decisive determination that it is legal, constitutional and within the power of the government entity that issued it. A judge issuing a TRO must conclude that the objection to the act is substantive, that the party applying for the TRO has a substantial chance of prevailing on the merits, and that the party has standing to object. The judge does not have to conclude that the party asking for the order is right, just that the party may be right.

However, reading Judge Judge Robart’s order, one can glean no clue as to why the TRO was justifiable, and why it is so sweeping. Although the judge writes in his conclusion that…

The work of the court is not to create policy or judge the Wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches. That is the work of the legislative and executive branches and of the citizens of this country who ultimately exercise democratic control over those branches. The work of the Judiciary, and this court, is limited to ensuring that the actions taken by the other two branches comport with our country’s laws, and more importantly, our Constitution. …

[T]he court is mindful of the considerable impact its order may have on the parties before it, the executive branch of our government, and the country’s citizens and residents. The court concludes that the circumstances brought before it today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripart government.

…the order never states what is illegal or unconstitutional in his view.  This omission has led many analysts to conclude that there isn’t anything. He just doesn’t like the order. Much has been made of the fact that Robart was a Bush appointee, so the order isn’t “partisan.” Of course, the same people making this argument, in other settings, would maintain that a Bush appointment is just a bad judge. Many, many, many Republicans  and conservatives detest the President, and especially, one should remember, the Bush family. It is far from unlikely that bias against the President caused Judge Robart to employ poor judgment. Democrats cite the fact that Rorart is a conservative as part of a wonderfully convenient construct: if a conservative judge opposes them, the fact that he’s a conservative means he’s wrong, and if a conservative judge agrees with them, the fact that he’s a conservative means he’s right.
Some of the exchanges in the hearing that led to his order directly contradict his written statement that he is not questioning the wisdom of the order rather than challenging its legality.

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Ethics Dunce: The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals

The unethical prosecutor in US v, Flores. Watch out for her!

The unethical prosecutor in State v. Flores. Watch out for her!

It’s always heartening to see a court cite the 1935 Supreme Court case of  Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, (1935), famous in legal ethics circles for its ringing statement that government lawyers must understand that their obligation “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win . . . , but that justice shall be done.”  The principle has been extended by some judges to civil cases as well, making the point that the government in any legal dispute should be interested only in the best interests of citizens and getting the case right. It is less heartening when the cite is in a dissent, as in this case.

The Ninth Circuit, reviewing a conviction for illegal drug importation, conceded that the prosecutor crossed into unethical territory by misstating the law,misstating the defendant’s testimony, and improperly vouching for a witness. Nonetheless, the court in State v. Flores concluded that this misconduct didn’t rise to the level of “plain error,” meaning that the defendant would have been found guilty anyway:

“In sum, while the government misrepresented Flores’s testimony and misstated the law on multiple occasions, in the context of the trial as a whole, it is unlikely that the jury was misled about the law or the facts.”

That’s right: the government misrepresented facts and law, but the jury was probably not misled. Continue reading

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