Tag Archives: Lee A. Casey

The Ninth Circuit Ignores Precedent and Threatens National Security

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals violated both judicial precedent and the Constitution’s separation of powers in its ruling against President Trump’s executive order on immigration. If the ruling stands, it will pose a danger to national security.

Under normal rules of standing, the states of Washington and Minnesota should never have been allowed to bring this suit. All litigants, including states, must meet fundamental standing requirements: an injury to a legally protected interest, caused by the challenged action, that can be remedied by a federal court acting within its constitutional power. This suit fails on every count.

The plaintiff states assert that their public universities are injured because the order affects travel by certain foreign students and faculty. But that claim involved no legally protected interest. The granting of visas and the decision to admit aliens into the country are discretionary powers of the federal government. Unadmitted aliens have no constitutional right to enter the U.S. In hiring or admitting foreigners, universities were essentially gambling that these noncitizens could make it to America and be admitted. Under the theory of standing applied in this case, universities would be able to sponsor any alien, anywhere in the world, then go to court to challenge a decision to exclude him.

It is also settled law that a state can seek to vindicate only its own rights, not those of third parties, against the national government. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Massachusetts v. Mellon (1923) that it is not within a state’s duty or power to protect its citizens’ “rights in respect of their relations with the Federal Government.” Thus the plaintiffs’ claims that the executive order violates various constitutional rights, such as equal protection, due process and religious freedom, are insufficient because these are individual and not states’ rights.

Even if states could articulate a concrete injury, this is not a case in which the courts ultimately can offer redress. The Constitution grants Congress plenary power over immigration, and Congress has vested the president by statute with broad, nonreviewable discretionary authority to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens . . . he may deem to be appropriate” to protect “the interest of the United States.” Numerous presidents have used this authority to suspend entry of aliens from specific countries.

Further, as the Supreme Court explained in Knauff v. Shaughnessy (1950), the authority to exclude aliens “stems not alone from the legislative power but is inherent in the executive power to control the foreign affairs of the nation.” In issuing the order, the president was acting at the apex of his authority. As Justice Robert Jackson noted in Youngstown v. Sawyer (1952): “When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate.” That point the Ninth Circuit ignored entirely.

The order, frequently mischaracterized as a “Muslim ban,” is actually directed at seven countries that the president believes present a particular threat to U.S. security—a view with which Congress agreed in 2015. All are beset by terrorists and so uncertain and chaotic that proper vetting of potential refugees and immigrants is virtually impossible.

President Obama chose to toughen vetting standards for these countries’ nationals rather than bar their entry completely. But if Mr. Trump has a different view of the threat, it is not up to the courts to decide who is right. This is a classic example of a nonjusticiable “political question,” involving matters constitutionally vested in the president and Congress.

Judges—were they adjudicating a suit brought by a party with standing—could overturn the president’s order if it entailed clear violations of due process or equal protection. But attempting to discern Mr. Trump’s motivation in selecting these countries exceeds the judiciary’s proper constitutional role. Judges scrutinize government motives in the domestic context, if presented with allegations that facially neutral governmental action is motivated by invidious discrimination. That inquiry is inappropriate in the foreign-policy sphere.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision represents an unprecedented judicial intrusion into the foreign-affairs authority of Congress and the president. The stakes transcend this particular executive order and even immigration issues generally. By removing restrictions on standing and other limitations on the exercise of judicial power, the Ninth Circuit would make the courts the ultimate arbiters of American foreign policy. The ruling risks creating both a constitutional and a security crisis. It must be reversed.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey practice constitutional and appellate law in Washington and served in the White House Counsel’s Office and U.S. Justice Department during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-ninth-circuit-ignores-precedent-and-threatens-national-security-1486748840

Trump doesn’t need to divest: Opposing view

by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey

December 26, 2016, in USA Today

President-elect Donald Trump is perfectly entitled to retain his business holdings, and to permit his adult children to run those businesses, as a means of avoiding conflicts-of-interest during his presidency. The Constitution does not require him to divest his holdings, nor do other federal laws.

Although many previous presidents have chosen to put their personal holdings in a “blind trust,” this was not required and in Trump’s case such a requirement would be particularly iniquitous. Trump could not simply liquidate his holdings in the public securities markets at market prices. He would have to find buyers for a vast array of real estate holdings and ongoing businesses. Each of those potential buyers would be well aware of his need to sell, and to sell quickly, and the value of his holdings would be discounted.

In addition, of course, the Trump Organization is a family business, as it has been since the time of Trump’s father. Most of his children are employed in that business. Neither law nor logic require Trump to pull the rug out from under them. A newly elected president is simply not required to make such personal sacrifices as the price of assuming an office to which he was constitutionally elected.

Hold On Jasta Minute!

Legal tradition says that hard cases make bad law. Few cases are harder than those having to do with the plight of the families of 9/11 victims.

This led Congress to adopt the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Jasta, as it is known, gives federal courts the power to determine whether a foreign state has intentionally sponsored terror against American citizens. This power, however, belongs to the president and cannot be constitutionally wielded by the judiciary.

Jasta was enacted in September over President Obama’s veto. Although the law mentions no particular state, its target is clearly Saudi Arabia. The families of 9/11 victims have long sought money damages from the kingdom, based on the Saudi citizenship of most of the 9/11 attackers and planners.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 gives countries immunity from being sued in federal courts. Jasta strips that immunity from any country the court finds acted with a culpable level of intent in sponsoring a terrorist attack on American soil. Mere negligence is insufficient under the law. In making this determination, the courts will also inevitably be branding the relevant state as a sponsor of terrorism.

A federal judge’s determination that Saudi Arabia intended to sponsor the 9/11 attacks would greatly strain U.S.-Saudi relations. More generally, whether the U.S. should identify any particular state as a terrorism sponsor is a supremely sensitive foreign-policy decision, involving myriad factors and rendering impossible U.S. cooperation with such a state.

For this reason, the Constitution reserves such determinations to the political branches of government, and more particularly to the president, who is principally responsible for the formulation and implementation of American foreign policy.

If a president decides to classify a nation as a sponsor of terrorism, Congress can define the consequences, including depriving such states of the sovereign immunity from lawsuit that they ordinarily enjoy in U.S. courts. It cannot, however, force a president to make such a determination. Nor can Congress vest such decision-making authority in the courts.

The Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Zivotofsky v. Kerry is instructive here. The court struck down Congress’s effort to require the executive branch to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel by permitting American citizens born there to have their passports indicate “Israel” as their birthplace. It said, “these matters are committed to the Legislature and the Executive, not the Judiciary.”

The judiciary doesn’t have access to the sort of information that would enable it to determine the motives of a foreign state. And even if it did, deciding whether to classify a country as a sponsor of terrorism is a task inherently ill-suited for judicial discernment. Recognizing and acting upon such information lies at the very core of the president’s foreign-affairs powers.

Jasta’s enactment has already damaged U.S.-Saudi relations and has alarmed many traditional U.S. allies, who understandably do not like the outsourcing of sensitive foreign-policy issues to the American judiciary and private litigants. Jasta is unconstitutional and should be struck down as such.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington, D.C.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/hold-on-jasta-minute-1480551317

It’s unrealistic and unfair to make Trump use a blind trust

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey

November 22, 2016, in the Washington Post

Suggestions that President-elect Donald Trump put his business holdings in a “blind trust” to avoid potential conflicts of interest are unrealistic and unfair. Such a trust would not eliminate the virtual certainty that actions Trump takes as president will affect his personal wealth, for good or ill. The step is not required by law. And presidents who have chosen to use this device held very different assets than Trump’s. He can keep his holdings and adopt a reasonable system to avoid conflicts and reassure the American people that the Trump administration is acting ethically.

To establish a blind trust of the sort used by his predecessors, Trump would not merely have to liquidate a securities portfolio and permit an independent trustee to manage those assets. He would have to sell off business holdings that he has built and managed most of his life, and with which he is personally identified in a way that few other business magnates are.

These businesses also provide employment for many thousands of people, including his children. All of it would have to go. This liquidation would by definition take place in the context of a “buyer’s market,” and so Trump would also be required to accept a vast personal loss in financial worth. Those suggesting the blind trust model must understand that their proposal is a poison pill Trump will not swallow.

Moreover, requiring Trump to liquidate his holdings would discourage other entrepreneurs from seeking the presidency, leaving the field clear for professional politicians and investors. Given that the American people have made clear their disgust with Washington’s elite, creating a disincentive for businesspeople to seek the presidency is not in the public interest.

Trump has suggested that he will let his adult children run the family businesses during his presidency, and there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents this arrangement. The emoluments clause, often invoked as the reason Trump must sell his businesses, is no bar. This constitutional provision prevents the president (and any other federal officer) from accepting gifts or compensation from foreign states. It does not limit Trump’s ability to benefit from dealings with non-state foreign entities. Whether a “state-controlled” entity falls within the emoluments clause prohibitions has traditionally been addressed on a case-by-case basis, depending principally on how independently such an entity operates from an actual government.

Likewise, neither federal law nor regulations limit the president in this area. Presidential candidates and presidents must disclose their finances, but the president is not covered by the principal financial conflict-of-interest law, and the relevant regulations specifically exclude the president. Indeed, it is doubtful that Congress could constitutionally limit the president’s personal investments or business activities consistent with separation of powers principles.

Of course, Trump’s wide holdings will likely raise real or perceived conflicts of interest during his presidency. Establishing a blind trust would have helped him address those concerns. There are, however, other measures that the president-elect can take to avoid conflicts. He can establish a firewall between himself and his adult children with respect to family business affairs. They would agree to give him no information about their business dealings, and he would pledge not to discuss those dealings with them.

In addition, his children could promise to refer any potential transactions involving foreign corporations or other entities to the White House counsel’s office or the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to analyze whether it would raise concerns under the emoluments clause. If the answer is yes, then they will avoid that transaction. The president himself would not be informed of the request or determination.

Finally, to the extent he wishes to seek advice about public policy from his children — which he appears to have done frequently before his election — the president can consult the White House counsel’s office about whether discussing a particular issue with them would create potential conflicts of interest. Most government issues do not have a direct impact on the hospitality industry and simply taking action that is good for the economy as a whole would not give rise to a conflict.

It is clear that Trump cannot satisfy all of his critics, but these measures are both reasonable and workable. They would — or should — reassure most Americans that his administration is acting with probity.

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, who practice appellate and constitutional law in the District, served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Rivkin also served in the White House counsel’s office in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-unrealistic-and-unfair-to-make-trump-use-a-blind-trust/2016/11/22/a71aa1d4-b0c0-11e6-8616-52b15787add0_story.html

Don’t bring Garland into 2016 presidential circus

President Obama has announced Judge Merrick Garland, of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, as his choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Although Judge Garland is certainly a credible candidate for the court, the Senate should postpone consideration of his nomination until after the new president takes office in January 2017. This has nothing to do with Judge Garland, but is the indispensable measure to protect the Supreme Court’s institutional legitimacy.

Scalia’s seat must be filled, but there is emphatically no constitutional timeline that either the president or the Senate must follow in making a new appointment. If that process is undertaken now, the nominee will for all intents and purposes become a “candidate” in this election and the Supreme Court — and by extension the federal judiciary in general — will be further politicized with concomitant damage to the legitimacy of the only unelected, and emphatically non-political, branch of the federal government.

There is little doubt that the electorate, left, right and center, already harbors deep doubts about the efficacy, legitimacy and even good will of all governmental institutions and that the Supreme Court’s own standing has been steadily undermined by relentless attacks on its decisions from all parts of the ideological spectrum. Although the court remains more popular than Congress and about as popular as the president, at the same time it is a counter-majoritarian institution and, as a result, its legitimacy is inherently far more brittle than that of the elected branches of government.

It is particularly vulnerable to the perception that it is acting politically, rather than scrupulously applying the Constitution and statutes to adjudicate cases. As Alexander Hamilton famously explained in The Federalist, delineating the separation of powers among the three federal branches and defending the proposition that the judiciary was to be “the least dangerous” branch, it was to “have neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.” But, with no electoral constituency to supports its legitimacy and authority, that judgment must be respected. Unfortunately, after three generations as a central force in effecting various types of social and political changes, the Supreme Court’s judgments are respected mostly by the “winners” of the relevant political battles it has determined to resolve.

This state of affairs, particularly when coupled with the fact that a number of intense battles between Congress and the president and the president and the states — implicating both the core separation of powers issues and pivotal matters of public policy — are now on the court’s docket, and will remain there for the foreseeable future, requires that both Congress and the president work to support and protect its legitimacy as a non-political institution.

The problem here, and the most likely explanation for the court’s declining approval ratings, is not what issues the court decides — as early as the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville noted that “scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question” — but how it decides. Or, perhaps more to the immediate point, how it is perceived to decide those issues.

With this in mind, having a protracted battle over the confirmation of a new justice unfold in the middle of an already bitter national election would be the worst thing to happen. Each side has its “litmus” tests, whether it is the overturning of the Supreme Court’s decisions on campaign expenditures and gun control on the left, or its decisions on abortion, same-sex marriage and Obamacare on the right. Nominating and confirming a justice with such litmus tests dominating the process — as they certainly will — would reinforce the impression that the court is indeed a political institution and would damage its reputation, legitimacy and efficacy beyond repair.

President Obama indisputably has the constitutional right to make appointments to the Supreme Court, but only by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. As a full partner in this process, the Senate would be entirely justified — indeed, it would be responsible and prudent — to postpone any consideration of a nomination to fill Justice Scalia’s seat until after the new president, Democrat or Republican, is inaugurated. And this would not be a slight or injury to President Obama, who has already appointed two Supreme Court justices. His term is in its final year, and filling seats on the Supreme Court is not a personal, presidential entitlement. The Senate majority leadership has concluded that postponing the confirmation process is appropriate, and it is perfectly entitled to do so. Having the Supreme Court function for a time with eight members will not destroy the republic, while making any new justice an election year football would gravely damage the court as an institution — an institution that is necessary to the republic’s survival and prosperity.

David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Lee A. Casey served in the U.S. Justice Department under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/16/supreme-court-nomination-merrick-garland-elections-2016-politics-constitution-column/81855264/

Justice Scalia kept constitutional originalism in the conversation — no small legacy

by David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey, in the Los Angeles Times

“I’m Scalia.” That’s how Justice Antonin Scalia began to question a nervous lawyer, who was mixing up the names of the nine Supreme Court justices during oral arguments on the controversial 2000 case Bush vs. Gore. His introduction should have been unnecessary, because if any justice dominated the contemporary Supreme Court stage, it was Scalia.

By turns combative, argumentative and thoughtful, Scalia was a stout conservative who transformed American jurisprudence in 34 years on the bench. He was also charming, witty and cordial, able to maintain a close friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps his leading intellectual rival on the Supreme Court’s left wing.

Appointed to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., by President Reagan in 1982, Scalia was elevated by Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1986. Scalia was, first and foremost, an “Originalist” — the title of a popular play about the justice that premiered last year in the capital. Scalia was not the first to argue that the Constitution must be applied based on the original meaning of its words — that is, the general, public meaning those words had when that document was drafted, rather than any assumed or secret intent of its framers. He did, however, supply much of the intellectual power behind the movement to reestablish the primacy of the Constitution’s actual text in judging.

With Scalia on the bench, academics, lawyers and jurists left, right and center were forced to confront originalist theory, which many had previously dismissed as hopelessly simplistic.

If there was one predominant thread running through Scalia’s cases it was a determination, consistent with his originalism, to limit the unelected judiciary’s power to the exercise of “merely judgment,” as characterized by Alexander Hamilton in a Federalist Papers passage that Scalia loved to quote. His view of the proper judicial role was driven by his belief that the Constitution assigned judges a modest part to play, both as to the types of issues they could resolve and the instances in which they could overturn choices made by elected officials.

Although the Constitution took disposition of some issues off the political table, Scalia understood that it nevertheless established a republic where on most matters the majority would rule. Individual liberty, he believed, was protected not only by specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights, but also by the system of checks and balances—limitations on the authority vested in government and the structural separation of powers among the three federal branches, as well as between the federal government and the states.

Indeed, Justice Scalia did as much or more to limit the scope of judicial power than any of his predecessors, particularly with respect to “standing” (who might have a sufficient case or controversy to litigate in federal courts), and his insistence that judges could enforce the law only as written, which could never be trumped by personal policy preferences.

It should come as no surprise that Scalia was not a great coalition builder or deal maker, joining only those majority opinions consistent with his guiding principles and dissenting in all other instances. For him, politicking and judging were simply incompatible.

He bristled at the idea that judges were the custodians of a “living Constitution” whose meaning they could change in accordance with “evolving standards.” As Scalia wrote dissenting from the court’s 2005 death penalty decision in Roper vs. Simmons: “On the evolving-standards hypothesis, the only legitimate function of this Court is to identify a moral consensus of the American people. By what conceivable warrant can nine lawyers presume to be the authoritative conscience of the Nation?”

Few justices could turn a phrase like Scalia, a talented writer. In one famous example, dissenting from a 1988 opinion upholding the now-defunct Independent Counsel Act, Scalia defended presidential power to control executive branch appointees by noting that “frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep’s clothing…. But this wolf comes as a wolf.”

His pen could also be sharp. Recently, for example, in response to the majority opinion upholding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Scalia excoriated his colleagues: “The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.” Love him or hate him, agree or disagree, no one can say that Scalia ever pulled a punch.

Scalia’s ultimate impact on American law will continue to unfold for decades to come, but one thing is certain. Before he joined the Supreme Court, judicial opinions could resolve constitutional issues with little discussion of that document’s original meaning. Today, jurists must at least confront it, even if they then resolve the issues based on the Constitution’s supposed living character. That is Scalia’s achievement, and it is no small thing.

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey are constitutional lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0216-rivkin-casey-scalia-legacy-originalism-20160216-story.html

Obama’s Illegal Guantanamo Power Play

By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY, in the Wall Street Journal

Dec. 2, 2015 6:51 p.m. ET

Two days after terrorists rampaged in Paris, the Obama administration announced that it had transferred five prisoners—including a former Osama bin Laden bodyguard—from the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United Arab Emirates.

In the past several days, the White House has signaled that a more significant step is coming soon: the complete shutdown of the facility and the transfer of the remaining detainees—there are 107 at the moment—to sites on the U.S. mainland. Obama-administration surrogates say the president will effect the change by using his favorite tool, an executive order. But this would be utterly illegal, since Congress has specifically prohibited the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil.

Although the president’s war powers are broad and formidable, so are those of Congress. In particular, the Constitution specifically vests the legislative branch with the powers to “declare War”; to “raise and support Armies”; to “make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”; to “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces”; and to appropriate funds for all of these purposes. Continue reading