DOJ appeals order forcing its lawyers to take ethics classes

DOJ appeals order forcing its lawyers to take ethics classes
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) is appealing a court order from a federal judge in Texas forcing the department's lawyers to take ethics classes.

In its appeal filed Tuesday, the department said U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen "exceeded the scope of a court's inherent power."

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Hanen alleged that government lawyers made misrepresentations in a case over President Obama's executive actions on immigration. He ordered the lawyers to take a three-hour ethics course every year for the next five years.

The case involves a challenge from Texas and 25 other states against the president’s executive actions that created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans initiative and expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs. The programs defer deportations for many immigrants.

Hanen put the programs on hold in February 2015 as the legal challenge plays out. The judge also ordered the department to turn over a list of illegal immigrants who received three-year extensions in late 2014 and early 2015.

In the 28-page order that quoted films "Bridge of Spies" and "Miracle on 34th Street,” Hanen said he relied on the attorneys' promises that the government would not issue extensions until Feb. 18, after the judge planned to release a temporary injunction blocking the immigration programs on Feb. 16.

“If plaintiffs’ counsel had known that the government was surreptitiously acting, the plaintiff states could have, and would have according to their representations, sought a temporary restraining order pursuant to federal rule of civil procedure much earlier in the process,” he said.

In a statement, Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said the appeal argues that Hanen’s findings that government attorneys acted in bad faith is not supported by the evidence and the court's order intrudes on core executive branch functions. 

He said the agency is also arguing that turning over immigration records would undermine trust in the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to maintain the confidentiality of personal information, “which is essential to its mission.” 

“The department emphatically disagrees with the sanctions orders and will seek review of this matter in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals," he said. 

In its court filings, the DOJ claims it will cost the agency anywhere from $959,587 to $1.6 million in the first year to comply with the ethics order.  

The president’s immigration actions are currently before the Supreme Court. A decision is due in June.