The Democratic Party has selected as its DNC chair Thomas Perez, widely described as the Establishment choice. Perez didn’t give off much of an impression of moderation in the Obama cabinet, however, where he was a leading symbol of regulatory lawlessness, hauled up repeatedly by the courts for trampling employers’ rights. See, for example, Gate Guard (Fifth Circuit describes conduct of DoL as “vindictive,” “indefensible,” “bad faith”), the we-know-where-you-live “persuader” rule (blasted by ABA, enjoined by judge), and of course mid-level overtime (enjoined by judge). More: Dan McLaughlin (Perez’s manipulation of fair housing litigation); John Fund (hiring practices at DoJ civil rights division).
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday morning. It was one of a series of tweets assailing the temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in Washington state momentarily barring enforcement of the President’s executive order on visas and border crossing. Wait till he gets to the so-called Ninth Circuit!
It is still unusual to encounter the epithet so-called in high official pronouncements, in the United States at least (Pravda used to be fond of tak nazyvayemyye back in the day). But we have come to expect Trump to break new ground in judicial disrespect following his attacks last year as a candidate on federal judge Gonzalo Curiel of the Southern District of California, who was presiding over the Trump University case. I wrote then:
…In his rambling remarks, Trump also referred to Judge Curiel as “Mexican”: the jurist, previously the chief federal prosecutor for drug cases in southern California, was born in Indiana. Stoking by repetition, as his crowd of thousands booed, Trump called the federal judge “a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” and said he should be placed under investigation by the court system. I wonder whether anyone will be shocked if the judge requests personal protection for himself and his family as the trial proceeds.
Obama’s 2010 State of the Union remarks railing at the Justices of the Supreme Court in their presence regarding Citizens United were bad. This is far worse: the case is still in progress, Trump is a party, and the attack is on a single judge who will now find his task of ensuring a fair trial complicated. Trump, who speaks regularly around the country, chose to unleash the diatribe in the locality where the judge and others who will participate in the case, such as jurors, work and live.
As I noted at the time, the norm of not personally attacking judges has been eroding for years, not only at the hands of President Barack Obama (who publicly scolded judges not only in his 2010 State of the Union speech but also repeatedly during the court review of ObamaCare, as Josh Blackman documents) but from influential opinion leaders as well. One might cite in particular the extraordinarily vicious interest-group-led campaigns against judicial nominees, currently being cranked up against Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit but familiar from a dozen earlier nominee battles as well.
In the mean time, like his remarks on Judge Curiel, Trump’s comments on Judge Robart could complicate the efforts of his own lawyers in court: “Either they have to defend the statements that Judge Robart is a ‘so-called judge,’ which you can’t do, or they have to distance themselves from the president, who is their boss,” as University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman put it.
And the problems get more serious from there. Writes William Baude: “to call him a ‘so-called’ judge is to hint that he is not really a judge, that he lacks judicial power. It is just a hint, but it flirts with a deadly serious issue.”
That issue arises from the difference between criticizing the quality of a judicial decision and criticizing the authority of the judge to issue it:
If the court has authority, then the parties are legally required to follow its judgment: even if it is wrong; even if it is very wrong; even if the President does not like it. But if the court does not have authority, then perhaps it can be defied. So the charge of a lack of authority is a much more serious one. It is the possible set-up to a decision to defy the courts — a decision that is unconstitutional if the court does indeed have authority to decide the case.
The Obama administration won only 50.5 percent of its cases before the Supreme Court, an unusually low rate historically. The number can be seen as an outlier, or as “part of a trend that started after the Reagan administration, which won 75 percent of the time. Each succeeding president did worse than the last. President George Bush won 70 percent of his cases, President Bill Clinton 63 percent and President George W. Bush 60 percent.” [Adam Liptak, New York Times; earlier here, here, etc.]
Donald Trump’s inaugural address missed the mark a bit in discussing the oath of office, and would have profited by a mention or two of the Constitution, I argue at Cato at Liberty.
Meanwhile, my colleague Ilya Shapiro has this send-off to the departing president: “Top 10 Ways Obama Violated the Constitution during His Presidency.”
- R.I.P at 91 Nat Hentoff, magnificent cultural figure, champion of free speech and civil liberties [Tim Lynch; Cato biography page with links to commentaries; related YouTube playlist; his last Village Voice column; trailer on documentary; large archive at Unz.org including work for Inquiry; remembered by free speech expert Ronald K.L. Collins, with many links]
- “Self-Proclaimed Inventor of Email Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Techdirt’s Mike Masnick” [THR, Esq./Hollywood Reporter; “the latest case from attorney Charles Harder, who previously represented Hulk Hogan against Gawker”]
- In the mail: Paul Cliteur and Tom Herrenberg, eds., The Fall and Rise of Blasphemy Law [Leiden University Press]
- On porn, some GOP lawmakers favor wacky litigation theories; others, a nanny state approach [Elizabeth Nolan Brown (Utah proposal), A. Barton Hinkle (Virginia)]
- The most damaging way for Trump to attack the press could be the one Obama has already laid out, namely pursuit of leaks and leakers [Peter Sterne/Politico, Mike Masnick/TechDirt] Mark Feb. 3 on calendar for Cato panel on free speech under Trump with Flemming Rose, Frank Buckley, Robert Corn-Revere; earlier Cato panel with Rose and Nick Gillespie on free speech in age of Trump now online; related on Trump’s antagonism toward critics from Jacob Sullum, Eugene Volokh;
- If Euro-style hate speech law ever sneaks into U.S., enactments like Louisiana’s Blue Lives Matter law may show the way [Scott Shackford, Reason; earlier]
Some on the left are still blasting judges as activist for standing up to Obama administration assertions of executive power in the regulatory sphere. That might prove shortsighted considering what’s on the agenda for the next four years, or so I argue in a piece in Sunday’s Providence Journal.
I take particular exception to a Bloomberg View column in which Noah Feldman, professor at Harvard Law, assails federal district judge Amos Mazzant III for enjoining the Department of Labor’s overtime rule for mid-level employees (earlier). In a gratuitous personal jab, Feldman raises the question of “whether Mazzant sees an opportunity for judicial advancement with this anti-regulatory judgment” in light of the election results, though he offers not a particle of evidence that the judge, an Obama appointee, is angling for higher appointment under the new administration.
The problems with the overtime rule were both substantive and procedural. As I mention in the piece, “more than 145 charitable nonprofits signed a letter begging the department to allow more than a 60-day public comment period. It refused.” That letter is here (via, see Aug. 5, 2015 entry). I also mention that a court recently struck down the Department of Labor’s very bad “persuader rule” that would have regulated management-side lawyers and consultants; more on that from Daniel Fisher, the ABA Journal, and earlier.
After pointing out that many of the rulings restraining the Obama administration have been written or joined by Democratic-appointed judges, I go on to say:
Judges rule all the time against the partisan side that appointed them.
And we’ll be glad of that when the Trump executive orders and regulations begin to hit, and Republican-appointed federal judges are asked to restrain a Republican White House, as they have often done in the past.
We should be celebrating an energetic judiciary that shows a watchful spirit against the encroachments of presidential power.
There’s hope for stopping some of the regulations that the Obama administration began dropping in its last months before heading out the door, including the arguably worst of all, overtime for mid-level workers, now blocked by a federal judge in Texas [Kathy Hoekstra/Watchdog, McClatchy, Brittany Hunter/FEE; Virginia Postrel (“Not every workplace is, or aspires to be, the civil service. Not every worker longs to be on an assembly line.”)]
- Finally, some progress? White House releases “Housing Development Toolkit” urging local policymakers to expand by-right development, accessory dwelling units, pro-density rezoning [Jonathan Coppage, Washington Post; Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato]
- And see related: “Parking Requirements Increase Traffic And Rents. Let’s Abolish Them.” [Brent Gaisford, Market Urbanism] “America’s Ugly Strip Malls Were Caused By Government Regulation” [Scott Beyer]
- And yet more, stranded in Seattle: “Micro-Housing, Meet Modern Zoning” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato]
- California: “Coastal Commission Abuse Smacked Down by Court” [Steven Greenhut]
- “If firms refused to take direction, FDR ordered many of them seized.” For climate change advocate Bill McKibben, RICO-for-deniers is only the start [New Republic] Fan at New York Times eyeing McKibben to win Nobel [Timothy Egan]
- “Midnight Monuments: The Antiquities Act and the Executive Authority to Designate National Monuments” [Federalist Society podcast with Donald Kochan and Charles Wilkinson]
An unprecedented volume of rulemaking by the Obama administration, at a pace of one major rule every three days, will soon be followed by an even more intense binge of the “midnight” regulation seen at the end of many presidential tenures. Sam Batkins of American Action Forum and Sofie Miller of George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, authors of two recent papers on the subject, discuss in a Federalist Society podcast moderated by Hoover’s Adam White. More: binge of Obama labor regulation will cost economy $80 billion over ten years [Ike Brannon and Sam Batkins for NAM]