Judicial Insanity

In what is quickly and disgustingly becoming a new norm, yet another low-level federal judge has issued a national injunction against one of Trump’s policies. In this case I’m referring to U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar’s action barring Trump’s plan to require those seeking asylum to do so at a regular port of entry.

Per the Constitution, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is a branch of the government that is CO-EQUAL with the President, not superior. Certainly, no inferior court, such as one at the District level, has status or authority equal to SCOTUS. Therefore I see no constitutional reason why the President, in this case Trump, is bound by any holding of any Court other than SCOTUS.

Secondly, this phenomenon of District courts issuing rulings with national effect is completely new. The only court with national jurisdiction is SCOTUS. Lower courts have jurisdiction within defined geographical boundaries, and their rulings only apply WITHIN those jurisdictional boundaries. Each District covers certain defined areas and each Circuit is comprised of several Districts. The Circuit assures uniformity of the law within its own boundaries by ruling on the conformity and propriety of rulings of the Districts within its jurisdiction.

From there one of SCOTUS’s main functions is to settle conflicts between the rulings of the various Circuits in order to assure uniformity of the application of law throughout the nation.

With that in mind, barring a SCOTUS ruling, I maintain that Trump – or any President – can tell any lower court judge to stick it where the sun never shines.

In fact, I have to stress that even SCOTUS is only co-equal to the President, not superior. A President doesn’t even have to obey a SCOTUS ruling. As a matter of further fact, we have an example of one President who refused to do so.

In the case of Worcester v. Georgia SCOTUS handed down a ruling that Andrew Jackson chose to completely ignore. Though this resulted in the Trail of Tears tragedy, it did illustrate the principle that SCOTUS doesn’t have authority superior to the President.

The bottom line is that Trump, or any President, can tell a court to pound sand. Of course, there could be political consequences if that court is SCOTUS. It could end up being a “constitutional crisis”. It would certainly be a constitutional conflict. But it may be one worth having, as the courts seem to have lost all sense of their rightful place in the scheme of things.

©Brian Baker 2018

(Also published on 27 November 2018 in my local newspaper, The Signal)

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Naked Judicial Activism and Overreach

On March 15th, for the second time, a federal district judge – this time in Hawaii – issued an injunction against President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from several specific countries. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, in the case of State of Hawai’I and Ismail Elshikh v. Donald J. Trump, had the temerity to order that “Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States, at all United States borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this Court.” In other words, this judge in the district of Hawaii issued a restraining order that supposedly has nationwide enforceability.

The only problem is, he has no authority to do so.

Article III of the US Constitution establishes the Judiciary, and defines its powers, authority and limitations. Section 2, Paragraph 2 clearly states that: “In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.”

What that means is that, barring a constitutional amendment, any case in which a state is a party must be heard by the Supreme Court, the only court with the authority and jurisdiction to hear such cases. Since one of the plaintiffs in the case at issue is the state of Hawaii, District Judge Watson had no jurisdiction, nor authority, to even hear the case. The same holds true for the several other District Courts that have heard and/or issued rulings on cases of like kind.

That paragraph goes on to state that: “In all the other Cases before mentioned (in Paragraph 1), the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.” Under that authority Congress went on to enact the Judiciary Acts of 1789, 1801, 1865, and 1925. These various Acts established the judicial system we have today, consisting of nine Supreme Court Justices, the various Circuit Courts of Appeal, the various District Courts, and their various jurisdictions, responsibilities and powers.

Part of that structuring defined court power to establish that the only court with national jurisdiction is the Supreme Court. For example, any ruling handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court only has enforcement power within the geographical boundaries of that Circuit, which are the nine Western states, including California. That’s why it’s not unusual to see different Circuits hand down conflicting rulings on the same issue, with the Supreme Court then stepping in to address and resolve the conflict by issuing a determinate ruling with national authority, thereby assuring a consistent application and rule of law across the nation.

The geographical jurisdictional and enforcement power of a District court is even smaller, as it’s a subset of the Circuit Court. So, just as the authority of a ruling by a Circuit Court is constrained by its geographical boundaries, so is the authority of a District Court’s ruling constrained to its own.

From this it’s easy to see that, in addition to hearing a case over which he had no jurisdiction, District Judge Watson issued a ruling and restraining order that he unlawfully attempts to apply outside the geographical borders of his own limited authority.

This is beyond unacceptable; it’s a repugnant attempt to usurp and arrogate power.

Were I Trump I’d instruct the State Department and other involved agencies to ignore these illegal rulings by this, and other, District judges who have far overstepped their legal authority. If these tin pot local judges want to set up a confrontation between the Judiciary and the Executive branches, then let’s bring it on.

Thomas Jefferson expressed his concern that the federal judiciary was potentially “the most dangerous branch” of government because, once seated, judges were installed for life and not accountable to the electorate. Unfortunately, particularly in recent decades, we’ve been seeing those fears realized as arrogant activist judges have taken to regularly exceeding their authority in order to facilitate their own political agendas, as facilitated by the cynical practice of “judge shopping” by litigants eager to promote and achieve their own political ends, goals they generally can’t achieve through the regular political process.

This must come to a halt, even if that has to be done through a constitutional confrontation.

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)