Nationwide injunctions from district courts have become a major political force…
Larsen, Liberty Headlines) Members of the House of Representatives
debated how to handle nationwide injunctions from district federal
judges in a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual
Property and the Internet on Thursday, and contemplated proposing
legislation to limit decisions that have such sweeping impact.
or not one agrees with the outcome of a particular case, nationwide
injunctions clearly give, for a time, the power of the power of the
entire Supreme Court to make a law of the land in a case, and
effectively set a precedent or bar from similar cases,” said Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) in his opening statement.
injunctions are a remedy which apply to only the parties in a lawsuit,
or those affected by a class-action lawsuit.
But in the last few
years, federal courts have expanded injunctions to apply to parties and
individuals which were not part of the lawsuit.
nationwide or universal injunctions from federal district courts have
become a major political force on both the right and the left,
particularly when opposing initiatives from the executive branch.
“The point is that courts are giving remedies to non-parties,” said
Samuel L. Bray, Professor of Law at UCLA. “A decision by a federal
district judge doesn’t count as precedent, not even in that judge’s own
district court. So why should one district judge be able to control the
federal government everywhere?”
The rise of nationwide federal
court injunctions presents a number of legal issues surrounding
hierarchy, jurisdiction, and constitutionality.
federal district courts could contradict each other and attempt to
override each other with nationwide injunctions, and it gives the
Supreme Court less information for major decisions.
federal district court stops a federal policy everywhere, there might be
no opportunity for other federal judges to express their views, leaving
the Supreme Court to potentially hear the appeal without the benefit of
hearing differing views on the subject… It leaves the Supreme Court to
decide major questions of federal policy more quickly, with fewer facts,
and without the advice of competing views among the lower courts,” said
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
theory, the Supreme Court could issue a ruling which limits the power
of federal district courts to issue nationwide legal injunctions.
But expert witnesses agreed that is unlikely, noting that the court has avoided the topic in the past.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure could be amended by the advisory
committee, but it has recently declined to do so.
Instead, Congress could pass a statute that limits federal injunctions.
subcommittee members and witnesses did not agree that a statute is
necessary or proper, or that federal injunctions should be banned at
Some expert witnesses warned that national injunctions themselves are not the root of the problem, and are sometimes necessary.
cases challenging federal immigration laws and policies, nationwide
injunctions are often required to alleviate plaintiffs’ injuries,” said Amanda Frost, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law.
both the injunction to stop Obama’s deferred action for certain illegal
immigrants in 2014, and the injunction to stop Trump’s travel ban
earlier this year, “plaintiffs’ alleged injuries could only be
alleviated by a nationwide injunction,” said Frost.
here isn’t so much nationwide injunctions. Part of the problem is the
courts issuing injunctions that are too broad,” said Hans von Spakovsky,
a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
don’t think there’s any way to give a federal district judge the power
to issue national injunctions sometimes and not other times, that will
actually be logical and coherent. So I would say, a strict prohibition,”