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If you’ve been getting the distinct impression that the Justice Department under President Obama is at least a tad unethical, you now have proof — a federal judge has ruled it so.
And to correct that sad state of affairs, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered Justice Department lawyers to take a remedial ethics class in his scathing 28-page opinion.
Law students are typically required to take an ethics class while in school, and later pass a test on the subject as a part of the state bar exam. It’s unusual that lawyers are afterwards ordered to revisit the subject.
“An attorney owes a duty of candor and honesty to the court, and at the very least a duty not to misrepresent the facts to a judge or opposing counsel,” he wrote.
Hanen said that the court was “disappointed that it has to address the subject of lawyer behavior,” but found that the “Justice Department has now admitted making statements that clearly did not match the facts.”
At issue was the DOJ’s defense of a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states challenging President Obama’s executive actions granting amnesty to immigrants who entered the United States illegally.
Although that issue is now being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hanen noted that “what remains before this Court is the question of whether the Government’s lawyers must play by the rules.”
He held that they did, and offered numerous examples where DOJ lawyers hid facts, stretched the truth or told outright falsehoods, all in an effort to mislead the court.
Hanen said the government “admitted that the lawyers who made these statements had knowledge of the truth when they made these misstatements. The DOJ’s only explanation has been that its lawyers either ‘lost focus’ or that the ‘fact[s] receded in memory or awareness.’”
In addition to the deception, the government totally ignored the court’s decisions. After Hanen ordered amnesty applications to come to a screeching halt, the Department of Homeland Security processed thousands of more applications.
“The Government’s lawyers failed on all three fronts,” Hanen wrote. “The actions of the DHS should have been brought to the attention of the opposing counsel and the Court as early as December 19, 2014. The failure of counsel to do that constituted more than mere inadvertent omissions — it was intentionally deceptive.”
In addition to sending the government lawyers back to school, he barred the out-of-state DOJ attorneys from appearing in his courtroom on this matter again.
“The Court does not have the power to disbar the counsel in this case, but it does have the power to revoke the pro hac vice status of out-of-state lawyers who act unethically in court. By a separate sealed order that it is simultaneously issuing, that is being done.”
Hanen clearly doesn’t want to see their faces again.
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