Sessions accuses judges of overreach in Heritage address

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While speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions scolded federal judges who have ruled against or criticized the Trump administration.

“Co-equal branches of government ought to respect one another as co-equal branches,” Sessions said. “As you all know well, some judges have failed to respect our representatives and Congress and the executive branch.”

Sessions singled out the federal judge in Brooklyn who called the Trump administration’s attempt to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “cruel,” “heartless” and “unacceptable,” according to a New York Times report.

“With respect: it is emphatically not the province or duty of courts to say whether a policy is compassionate,” he said, according to his prepared remarks. “That is for the people and our elected representatives to decide. The court’s role is to say what the law is.”


Sessions slammed Judge Nicholas Garaufis for his comments from the bench, calling them “highly offensive, and disrespectful of the legislative and executive branches.”

“Judges have the solemn responsibility to examine the law impartially. The judiciary is not a superior or policy-setting branch,” he said. 

The Trump administration has been battling with federal courts across the country for months. President Trump has repeatedly attacked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Twitter for ruling against his previous travel bans and for blocking his attempt to withhold funding from so-called sanctuary cities. 

In February, Trump took to Twitter to slam a “so-called judge” who halted his first travel ban.

And in April, Sessions responded to a judge in Hawaii halting the revised order by saying he was “amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”

On Thursday, he said it is “especially problematic when district courts take the dramatic step of issuing activist nationwide injunctions — orders that block the entire United States government from enforcing a statute or a presidential policy nationwide.”

Federal district court judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued orders largely blocking Trump’s new targeted restrictions on travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela.

Hawaii District Judge Derrick Watson, who stopped Trump’s previous ban, blocked all the restrictions except with respect to Venezuelan officials or immigrants from North Korea. He said the new order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” and contains “internal incoherencies that markedly undermine its stated ‘national security’ rationale.”

Sessions said these judges issuing nationwide injunctions are in effect making themselves “super-legislators” for the entire United States.

“A single judge’s decision to enjoin the entire federal government from acting is an extreme step, and too often, district courts are doing it without following the law,” he said. 

“Exercising this awesome power because of a political disagreement is all the more unacceptable. The Constitution gives judges no right to veto a president’s actions because they disagree with him on policy grounds.”

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